How is social media affecting teenage mental health? Research shares that nearly half of teens (46 percent) say they are now online constantly — which means they are more at risk for cyber-victimization.
Doomscrolling or doomsurfing has become a trend that is impacting mental health with all ages and especially teenagers. This is when a person spends an excessive amount of time online (scrolling) and reading about negative events. In 2019, a study by the National Academy of Sciences found that doomscrolling can be linked to a decline in mental and physical health.
Unlike bullying in person which can be contained to classrooms, buses or neighborhoods, cyberbullying is on a global platform that can spread worldwide. It can be in the form of a text message spread to millions of peers (and strangers), or on a social media post gone viral. We have seen the results of sexting scandals that have crisscrossed our country in both middle schools and high schools — leaving adolescents emotionally devastated.
Has your teen sent or received a sext message or posted something inappropriately, only to become a target of online shame? Never doubt the cruelty of some people online — with the anonymity of social media, peers can take on a new persona without a second thought that there is a real person behind the screen.
Have you noticed your teen:
-Becoming withdrawn, avoiding friends or social events
-Feelings of sadness
-Hiding their screen (phone or computer) from your view
-Grades are dropping, skipping classes, school refusal
-Seems anxious or angry when on their device
–Isolating themselves in their room (more than normal)
-Believe they are doing drugs or drinking (maybe self-medicating)
These are some indications that your teen could be struggling with online issues (cyber-victimization).
4 Ways Social Media Affects Teenage Mental Health
1. Depression and anxiety
Many teens are seeking gratification and approval through their social media platforms, basing their self-worth on how many “likes” or followers they garnish through their posts. Teenagers who search for acceptance on social media are more likely to succumb to those that are not always going to agree with them. Another words, they are at a higher risk of cyberbullying and online hate.
There is a vast amount of research which concurs that teens that are victims of online bullying and harassment has consistently led to higher levels of depression and anxiety. In addition, one study found that 93% of the teens that were victimized felt sadness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loneliness.
Since 2019 the numbers have doubled of youth struggling with depression and anxiety, and many experts have blamed the increase of screen-time for this statistic — cyberbullying has also increased 40 percent since 2020.
2. Digital self-harm
Digital self-harm is a trend that parents might not be aware of. Studies show distressed teens physically injure themselves via cutting, burning or other forms of self-harm as a way to cope with their pain.
Teens are anonymously posting mean and derogatory comments about themselves on social media as a way to manage feelings of sadness and self-hatred and to gain attention from their friends.
3. Self-harm and suicide ideation
Again, there has been numerous reports proving victims of cyberbullying are at a greater risk of both self-harm and suicidal behaviors. Teens that are being constantly harassed by peers (or strangers) through digital means (social media, text messages, instant messaging) often begin to feel helpless and hopeless.
If your teen is a victim of revenge porn or a sext message gone viral, the embarrassment and humiliation can be overwhelming. Maybe it’s a malicious prank someone posted about them — the online shame your teen feels can be emotional traumatic.
That’s when a teen may believe only way to relieve the pain is to end their life — or some will self-harm such as cutting or burning themselves.
4. Eating disorders.
Social media is where teens are posting images faster than lightening. The numbers are overwhelming and although much of the content supports positive body image, some promote the opposite — body shaming. A teen will literally spend hours perfecting an image to post online, and within minutes haters can pile on distasteful comments, ugly memes, and spread harmful rumors.
The relation of body image to bullying is strong. In one study, 90 percent indicated that they are currently bullied and 75 percent reported struggling with a clinically significant eating disorder.
Never doubt, the digital playgrounds your teens are on can be a harsh environment. The old cliché of sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you, is history. YES, words hurt and the pain can be long-lasting if not addressed with professional help.