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How does Social Media Affect Teens’ Mental Health?

How does Social Media Affect Teens’ Mental Health?

For many teens, life revolves around social media. With the recent rise in anxiety and depression among teenagers, it’s important to consider how social media may be contributing to that. 

The impact of time spent on social media can vary from teenager to teenager. However, there is considerable reason to believe that social media platforms can significantly impact young adults. Teens who struggle with mental health issues should receive the help and support they need. Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness (MCAW) can help teens who are struggling get the help that they need.   

How Does Social Media Affect Teens’ Mental Health? 

Of course, there are also plenty of well-publicized dangers of the effects of social media. This is what parents should be concerned about:


Social media exposes teens to potential bullying at all hours of the day. When teenagers are online, they are more likely to say things they would never say in real life. Cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depressive symptoms, drug and alcohol abuse, and even suicide in adolescents. 

There are many types of cyberbullying:

  • Harassment: Sending threatening or hurtful messages
  • Exclusion: Leaving someone out of a group online
  • Trickery and outing: Tricking someone into providing private or embarrassing information, then sharing that information with others
  • Trolling: Intentionally provoking someone into an argument or another response
  • Framing: Accessing someone else’s social media account and pretending to be that person
  • Catfishing: Stealing someone’s identity and setting up new social media accounts or signing up for other services under their name

Negative Body Image

Social networking site profiles are often carefully crafted to create the appearance of an ideal lifestyle. This can include outright lies and stories, as well as photoshopped images that do not accurately represent real life.

When young people compare their faces and bodies to these doctored images, they may start to develop a negative body image. This could lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.

Mental Health

Social media takes up a lot of time and can negatively affect mental health. Teens may be distracted at school because of what’s happening on social media. They could lose sleep because they stay up late online instead of going to bed. 

These habits can take a toll on their mental health as they fall behind in their studies or try to get through the day without sufficient sleep. Particularly when teens are also subjected to cyberbullying and unrealistic body ideals, they may be more at risk for anxiety, depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, substance abuse, delinquent behavior, and suicidal thoughts.

Social media and teen mental health require more research. Because social media is relatively new, experts don’t yet fully understand the impact it has on teenagers, children, and even adults. 

Warning Signs Your Teen is Struggling

Common Sense Media reports that in 2021, teenagers spent more than eight-and-a-half hours per day using entertainment screens. This includes about 90 minutes of social media time, as well as video games, online videos, television and movies, and more.  

Social media is designed to be addictive. It captures teens’ attention, activates the reward center of the brain, and creates a fear of missing out if you stop scrolling. Many teens can use social media moderately and have no negative effects on their lives. 

However, many others may start to suffer emotionally, socially, and even physically. Here are some warning signs that your teen may be struggling with social media:

  • They’re constantly checking their devices, even when in the middle of dinner or another event.
  • They lie about their social media use or don’t have a realistic understanding of how much time they spend on these platforms.
  • They get defensive or irritated when you ask them about social media. 
  • They get upset or anxious when they forget their phone or when it’s taken away. 
  • They spend less time with their friends and family in real life. 
  • They grow disinterested in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Their sleeping, eating, or grooming habits start to change.
  • They have a negative impact on schoolwork.

Protecting Your Teen from Social Media Harms

When it comes to social media and teen mental health, it’s important to stay aware and take action. There are steps you can take now before social media starts to become a problem for your teen or after you start to notice some of the warning signs listed above. 

Releasing Personal Information on Social Media

Teenagers may accidentally release personal information on social media platforms by sharing too much information in their profiles, such as their full name, address, phone number, or school name. They may also share personal information in posts, comments, or direct messages. Additionally, teens may unknowingly share personal information through the use of apps and quizzes that have access to their social network accounts. This can make them vulnerable to online predators, cyberbullying, and identity theft. It is important for teens to be aware of the information they are sharing online and to be mindful of their privacy settings.

Delete Social Media Apps from the Phone

In some, you may need to temporarily or permanently remove social media apps from the phone. That way, your teen won’t be checking in all day, having a negative effect on focusing. 

Leave Devices at Home 

Leave the smartphones at home if you’re going out to dinner, a concert, a festival, or another event. Encourage your teen to interact and get involved with the event and the people around them. When the phones aren’t present, there’s no risk of mindlessly picking them up and scrolling a social media feed. 

Disable Notifications

Instead of responding to every ding, your teen can set aside time in the morning or even check their profiles and read all notifications at once. This allows them to stay engaged at school or in social settings without being distracted by notifications. 

Limit Time on Social Media

Give teens a time frame for using social media. They still get to check their notifications, practice social interaction, stay connected with their friends, and watch their favorite videos without getting caught up in hours of mindless scrolling.

We Are Here to Help

If those actions don’t deter your teens from excessive social media use, or if they’re experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of their social media use, they may need professional help. Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness is a day treatment and IOP program for teens 13 to 17 struggling with a mental health disorder or substance abuse. We take social media and teen mental health seriously. 

We offer a variety of social support programs and therapies customized to your teenager’s needs. From group and family therapy to art and music therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more, our highly-trained professionals are skilled at managing adolescent mental health.