Social Media and the Role it Plays in the Teenage Mental Health Crisis

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It is nothing new to say that going through the teenage youth period of life is tough. There are many things happening within life during this timeframe. Making new friends, losing friends, relationships, finding out about yourself, keeping up with school, are all tough steps teens go through. It seems as though teens these days suffer much more from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Does social media cause mental health issues in our youth and teens? One of the biggest issues with social media is the immediate and around the clock access. Teens go to school all day, and used to be able to come home and have freedom from school issues for the period they’re home in the evening. Now, with constant access to social media, teens are connected to each other around the clock. This opens up the window for cyberbullying and no escape. These teenagers leave school to go home and get away from any issues that may be going on in school, but once they get home there is access to text messages, facebook, instagram, twitter, and many other apps that allow the continuance of the problem and attacks. Their peers and even strangers often say things behind a screen that they would never say face to face to verbally harm someone else.

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They have no escape anymore. Even if they turn off their phone or computers for the evening, the messages and comments are still there to wake up to. Over half a million eighth graders were studied in 2017 and it was found that high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% from 2010-2015. In the same window, teen suicide had an increased rate of 65%. Alexandra Hamlet, PsyD at the Child Mind Institute, feels that this is due to the feeling of isolation because the face to face connections are not being made that human beings need to feel satisfied. She says, The less you are connected with human beings in a deep, empathic way, the less you’re really getting the benefits of a social interaction. While one would think that the extra likes and followers on social media would be an esteem booster, it actually seems quite the opposite is true. So much of social media is filled with artificial posts making others seem skinnier, prettier, richer, etc. It gets competitive when one person may receive more likes than the other. One starts to compare their self to other people wondering what they may be doing wrong to not get as many likes or comments.

The following and comparison of celebrities on social media platforms also creates a false form of self and wishing to be more like those who are photoshopped or have hair and makeup teams making them look the way they do posted on social media. Instagram especially shows up on many surveys as causing the most anxiety and depression due to their image platform. Most people are posting their happiest times in their life and creating images of how perfect their lives are on social media. Teens tend to compare their lives with others on the internet causing the effect of keeping up that perfect life in real life in person. This causes anxiety of trying to keep that persona up in person and worrying if their friends will still like them and accept them if their life in person doesn’t match that perfect life shown on social media. Social media is an addiction to a majority of teens. They feel the pressure to be online and ready to respond at all times to any direct messages and comments. The pressure is also there to come up with the perfect caption for their photos or the funniest post that will get shares and likes and gain popularity. The pressure to come up with new and exciting taglines and hashtags comes with a great deal of anxiety.

Communicating with peers online versus face to face is very different. One cannot see facial expressions or hear tone of voice while communication through social media so it is very easy to take offense to something and cause angst among peers because someone took something the wrong way or maybe didn’t take it the right way and missed a message. Friendships and dating relationships tend to suffer for this reason and also tend to not be authentic because teens don’t know how to communicate effectively in face to face contact. It can also cause jealousy amongst friends who may see pictures or videos of activities certain friends may have got together for but one may not have been invited. This can cause feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and confusion. Sleep deprivation caused by social media use has a huge impact on mental health of teens. They want to have constant access to their social media platforms so as not to miss anything in which lack of sleep can cause moodiness, a drop in grades, and overeating, as well as exacerbate existing problems like depression, anxiety, and ADD.

In a British study published in Journal of youth studies, one out of every five teens surveyed between the ages of 12 and 15 stated they wake up in the middle of the night and log onto their social media accounts to check them. Teens require more sleep than adults as it is, and to have additional disturbances throughout the night can cause a plethora of added emotional and physical health issues. Another huge issue amongst teens these days is sexting. Many teens are using social media platforms and text messaging to send nude or provocative pictures of themselves to gain attention and get approval, likes, comments, etc from their peers. When the attention they’re seeking doesn’t match up, depression and anxiety tend to set in and back to the same feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and lack of self worth.

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Social Media and the Role It Plays in the Teenage Mental Health Crisis. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved March 28, 2023 , from

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