How Social Media Can Affect Your Teen’s Mental Health

In today’s hi-tech world, many teens feel they should be available 24/7 on social media. It’s a social media environment for teens that far exceeds that of their parents. For many teens, social media is like candy. Researchers at UCLA found that certain circuits in teen brains that are activated by eating chocolate are similarly activated by large numbers of “likes” on social media networks. This causes teens to want to use social media more. Here are some social media teen facts from a report by Common Sense Media:

  • 90% have used social media.

  • 75% have a profile on a social networking site.

  • 68% use Facebook as their primary social networking site.

  • 51% visit social networking sites daily – often more than once per day.

  • 22% have a Twitter account.

How is Social Media Affecting Teen Mental Health?

The good side of social networking plays a vital role in broadening teens’ social connections and helping them learn valuable technical skills. However, there is a downside – teens are becoming addicted to social media. And, the more time they spend on line, the more difficult it becomes for them to self-regulate their social media usage. A number of mental health issues can develop if teens spend too much time online. The following is a discussion of the most common ones.


A teen may have many “friends” online but may be using social media instead of interacting with friends in the real world. This behavior can lead to loneliness, depression and low self-esteem. Physical friendships and dating relationships can suffer when social media takes over a teen’s life, and a teen can end up with no relationships that are deep or authentic. Teens hooked on social media will often download photographs to show others how much fun they are having instead of spending time participating in fun activities.


Teens can feel pressured to respond quickly online with well-written posts and perfect photos. In fact, some research shows that the larger a teen’s online social circle the more anxiety they feel about trying to keep up. Many teens, especially girls, spend a lot of time worrying what others might think of them because they made a faux pas online. Social media is not the same as face-to-face communication. A teen cannot hear someone’s tone of voice or see a facial expression online. As a result, misunderstandings are likely to occur, especially when someone tries to be funny or sarcastic.

Lack of Sleep

Teens can spend so much time on social media that they don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to mood changes, overeating, a drop in grades, and a lowering of the immune system. A British study published in the Journal of Youth Studies surveyed 900 teens and found that one-fifth of them almost always wake up during the night and log in to social media.


A teen’s social media friends tend to post mainly about their positive experiences. This can make it appear to a teen reader that other teens are leading more interesting and exciting lives. A teen may come to believe that everyone is happier or better off than they are. Envy may lead to a teen indulging in cyberbullying and mean behavior. Many “mean girls” target others because they are envious of the target’s clothes, boyfriend, successes, etc.

What Can Parents do About Social Media?

Parents need to understand the impact that social media can have on a teen’s developing brain. They must establish some sensible guidelines for social media use. Families who navigate the world of social media together, can help a teen’s online life to become more manageable. Click here for some tips on how to manage your teen’s social media use. And, stay tuned for a forthcoming article on what parents can do.

If You Need Help

At Doorways we understand the issues that may have developed from a teen’s use of social media. If your teen has a problem and you need help coping, make an appointment with one of our counselors. There is no charge to find out how we can help you and your teen.


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