The Effects of Social Media on Teenagers
In the past several decades there has been an exponential advancement of technology (e.g. personal use computers, wireless devices, etc.) including the widespread ease and accessibility to the Internet. It is highly common for young people to not only have cell phones and easy access to the Internet, but also their own email address, social media pages, personal social media handles, and more. It is common knowledge that teenagers are greatly influenced by their surroundings. While for centuries, this meant literal exposure physical surroundings nowadays this too must include exposure to virtual surroundings as well. Social media is an incredible tool. It can facilitate connections between people that are not in the same geographical location, disperse information; act as forum for marketing, and more. There are a variety of social media platforms some of which include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. A report published by Common Sense Media found that seventy-five percent of American teenagers have social media profiles. Regardless of the platform used, the exposure to societal norms via social media significantly impact teenagers.
The teenage brain is not yet fully developed. A teenager relies heavily on the amygdala (the area of the brain associated with impulses, emotions, aggression and instinctive behavior) when reacting to certain stimuli whereas an adult relies on the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that is involved in planning, self-control, and decision making) when reacting to the same stimuli. Hence, teenagers instinctively react emotionally to external stimuli, as this region of the brain is particularly sensitive during the adolescent years. The excitement and instant gratification that accompanies being active on social media (i.e. posting a photo and watching the number of likes increase), for some, could lead to an unhealthy, increasing desire, and/ or obsession with continuously maintaining an online presence.
Every teenager is different and will process and integrate the information he or she is exposed to via social media distinctly. While social media networking can expand a teenager’s social connections, it can also have an effect on a teen’s mental health. The Child Mind Institute asserts that excessive exposure to social media promotes anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem in teenagers. Additional examples of the reported effects of social media on teenagers could include any combination of the following:
- Sleep deprivation: teenagers that forgo sleep to remain active on social media.
- Diminished communication abilities/ lack of teenage socialization skills: teenagers that become so accustomed to communicating via social media that they lack face-to-face communication skills.
- Jealousy: the constant exposure to peer’s experiences depicted on social media can foster envy and jealousy.
- Fear of missing out (FOMO): teenagers that are not up to date with the latest social media posts may fear that they will be unable to participate in conversations with peers.
- Insecurity: teenagers that fear if they do not respond quickly enough to a friend’s post they will be replaced.
Spending time on social media can help teenagers learn valuable technical skills. However, most teenagers are unable to effectively regulate their screen time. Hence, it can be very easy for teenagers to get sucked in social media and spend hours scrolling through various social media platforms.
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