How are teenagers affected by social media, and how can we help them?
First, watch these two videos. One is a short film entitled A Social Life on the addictiveness of social media, and how it can overtake your life. The other is an ABC News clip featuring five girls discussing social media and its effect on their body image.
Snapchat. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. All of these are platforms of social media, and are some of the reasons that teens in the modern age are more susceptible to mental illnesses.
Teens are 14% more likely to become depressed if they use social media everyday and are 2.2x more likely to have an eating disorder
48% of teens who spend five hours per day on an electronic device have at least one suicide risk factor
Teenagers: YOU ARE NOT ALONE
To gather important information for my project, I sent a survey out to all of the high school age students at my school. The survey included questions such as the student’s grade and gender, and asked them if they personally had felt as though their mental health had been affected by social media. Here are some of the results that I had:
I also asked each student to explain what they meant by their answer to the last question. Here are some of their answers:
“I think that lots of things on social media can make people feel self-conscious. It is difficult for me to ignore these sorts of things despite the fact that I do not have social media.”
“Whenever I see something that I wasn’t invited to on social media it makes me feel worse about myself.”
“I think social media subconsciously affects who I am as a person.”
“Social media portrays perfectionism that can’t be reached.”
“Some people like social media influencers only show the good parts of their lives on their platform and sometimes that makes it seem like their life is a lot better than mine and that is upsetting sometimes”
“More often than not, I get caught up in social media instead of seeing my friends in person which definitely makes my mental state worse.”
“Knowing I’ve been left out has increased my social anxiety.”
“The whole mentality social media creates is addictive and toxic. It makes it very easy to obsess about yourself and your outward appearance, it makes you deeply insecure about yourself.”
“I do think that social media in general (I might include virtual communication, i.e. texting) effectively serves to amplify and aggravate any already unstable or paranoid thought processes.”
“I would be so distracted by my phone, I would miss everything happening around me. I would get obsessed about looking like other people or living like what their Instagram looked like, it lowered my self confidence a lot.”
“Instagram is flooded with unrealistic expectations which can have an impact on personal confidence.”
“I feel that there are so many unrealistic expectations, especially for women, that are greatly portrayed on platforms such as Instagram. This has often made me feel worse about myself or make me want to change to be a certain way.”
“I think that its hard to see other people spending time together without me because I feel like my friends don’t like me or don’t want to be friends etc. A lot of times seeing videos or photos just makes me feel even worse about myself, especially in terms of body positivity. Its hard to always see photos of girls who seem to have perfect bodies, or skin, or hair etc, because it just makes me subconscious and makes me feel like I’m not deserving of compliments etc.”
After reading these quotes from teenagers in school now, struggling with this, think about this question:
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECTED YOU?
How can we change this?
- Take time off of your cellphone every day
- Spend time with friends and family without the influence of social media. Do this IN PERSON.
- Spend time outside, instead of inside on electronics
- Talk with your parents. It might not seem as though they know much, but they’ve had some of the same feelings that you do.
A message to parents: TALK WITH YOUR KIDS!
**If you feel you are in danger of hurting yourself, or know someone who might be, call the suicide helpline number immediately. 1-800-273-8255
For additional information, here is an infographic created by me about social media and its effect on suicide rates in teenagers:
For further reading:
Fitzgerald, Britney. “Social Media Is Making Us Anxious, Study Finds.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 July 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/social-media-anxiety_n_1662224.html.
“How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers.” Child Mind Institute, 13 Apr. 2018, https://childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/
“Social Media And Teen Anxiety.” Harvard Graduate School of Education, 13 Apr. 2018, https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/12/social-media-and-teen-anxiety
“Social Media And Teens: How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?.” PsyCom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, 13 Apr. 2018, https://www.psycom.net/social-media-teen-mental-health