The Rise of Social Media and What It Means for Youth Mental Health
It’s not news to anyone that social media has exploded over the last decade, evolving from one platform for college students to a barrage of channels accessible to everyone – and their kids. The number of options isn’t the only aspect of social media that has grown either, its prominence in our lives has transformed right along with it. And that prevalence doesn’t just go for adults, it’s true for users of all ages, including youth.
This prevalence has led to much research and many conversations about the impacts of social media, including what it means for youth. While there can be upsides to social media, it does also come with negative aspects that can take a toll on the mental health of youth. Kids and adolescents may be more susceptible to the negative sides of social media, they’ll feel them differently than adults, and all of this can exacerbate feelings of depression and/or anxiety.
Where Can Social Media Go Wrong
While experiences and behaviors vary greatly on social media, a few of the prevalent risks for youth include comparing themselves to others, cyberbullying and oversharing.
At their core, social platforms are places to share and consume. But, this opportunity to constantly consume what others are saying or what they’re doing can lead to kids comparing themselves to others. This constant access to other people’s lives, from the likes they get to photos of the party they attended over the weekend can easily lead to a sense of inadequacy, which in turn can amplify existing feelings of isolation and anxiety.*
In addition to the impact of simply seeing other people’s lives on social media, there is also the issue of misuse – ranging from cyberbullying, to rumor spreading, to gossiping. With access to social media comes not only exposure to these uses, but the potential to participate in them.
How to engage in social media is a question that everyone has to deal with individually, and a key component in that conversation is thinking about how much information to share – and what’s appropriate. While oversharing can happen to anyone, the Mayo Clinic cites that “because of teens’ impulsive nature, experts suggest teens who post content on social media are at risk of sharing intimate photos or overly personal stories. This can result in teens being bullied, harassed or even blackmailed.”
If your child is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, contact their doctor, school or your local CMO.