How social media is affect teenagers’ minds. | Technology and health

How social media is affect teenagers’ minds

Teenagers, a world unto their own. With the vast jump in technological development and use over the last 25 years, it can be more challenging to understand what children these days are experiencing. You might think that once your children are teenagers they don’t need as much guidance when it comes to navigating social media and technology. But they still need your help (even if they hate to admit it!). This article explores how social media is affecting teenagers’ minds.

how social media affects teenagers

Social media has grown so quickly over the last two decades that keeping track of all its impacts can be overwhelming. Social media use is costly for a start. While the sites themselves might be free, to be able to use them you have to invest in a device that is recent enough to support the applications, these aren’t cheap. Yet, expenses that can range up to over US$ 1000 for a single device are considered ordinary [1].

Social media sites are seen to be disruptive to our natural face-to-face, in person communication. In a survey for Elon Journal, they recorded that 74% of students use their phones when they are with their friends and family. But, the same study recorded that 92% of students believed “technology negatively impacted face-to-face communication” [2]. Even while we recognise the flaws of social media and our devices, our addictions hold us in a pattern of use that continues to negatively impact our communication [2].

Beyond social and financial impact, there are the health concerns; like the impact screen time has on quality of sleep, visual fatigue from spending too long in front of a screen without adequate breaks, and the effect on overall eye health. But it has only been relatively recently that we have started to consider another aspect: mental health.

Social media and mental health

The World Health Organization reported that 10 to 20% of adolescents experience mental health problems [3], with 75% of all mental health disorders being established by the age of 18 [4]. The most common mental health disorders are depression and anxiety. Respectively, depression and anxiety are the fourth and ninth leading causes of disability and illness in adolescents 15 to 19 years old [5]. Cases of these disorders, and other mental health disorders have increased by 70% over the last 25 years [6].

While the direct cause of this rise is undetermined, there are several studies that have found a link between social media use and poor mental health in adolescents. A study carried out in Canada indicated that using social media daily for over 2 hours is associated with poor psychological function [7].

how social media affects teenagers

Poor mental health is characterised by a shift in the way that you think, feel or react becoming difficult [8]. This difficulty often comes because of an overwhelming sense of sadness or fear driving these changes in thought, as with depression and anxiety.

Filters and the teenage mentality

Filters vary wildly. Some are barely noticeable, simply brightening colours and sharpening images. But over the past few years, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have expanded the use of digital enhancement and beautification.

People share so much of their lives on social networking sites, everything from birthday party photos to what they ate for breakfast that morning. Most photos are edited in one way or another. When you are constantly exposed to unnaturally saturated photos, and “candid shots” that have been staged, it can become difficult to look at your own day to day life and feel satisfied. As a teenager, the societal pressure to have an aesthetically pleasing life can cause lots of stress and affect self-confidence and happiness.

For better or for worse, social media’s biggest attraction is arguably living (and posting) an “aesthetic” life. Across the sea of social media platforms, filters have become a fascination and obsession for many users. But what impact does this culture of over-editing have on teenagers growing up in this tech heavy era?

The not so fun part of being a teenager is facing the transition into adulthood [9]. Your body is changing, your hormones are making you more susceptible to poor mental health, and before you know it, you are thrown head-first into adulthood. With the added stress of living in a society that is heavily reliant on technology and social media, most of your anxieties and body-confidence issues are amplified. Not only are you only seeing parts of your friends and peers’ lives that they edited and posed, but now they are glazed over with the varnish of filters.

These filters can be so drastic that they technologically alter your facial features, and body shape moulding them to an ideal that is unrealistic and often unobtainable. This constant pressure to live up to these manipulated images increases stress, which can lead to anxiety and eating disorders. If teenagers feel they aren’t the “ideal” seen on social media, this can induce depressive periods.

how social media affects teenagers

You can imagine the impact this would have on anyone; let alone a teenager whose insecurities are already at the forefront of their minds. In an article by the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Education [9], they evaluated the way that social networking sites bring teenagers’ insecurities even closer to home. According to their evaluations, teenagers are facing the idealized bodies the media promotes via celebrities, but now they are also experiencing it first hand from their peers’ social media pages. This adds to the pressure to live up to this standard of life and aesthetic, exacerbating their already emboldened insecurities.

The impacts of these social media interactions have an added effect on teenagers as, “especially among adolescents, problematic internet use may have a stronger negative effect on body satisfaction or body esteem” [9]. So seeing an unobtainable body type being promoted everywhere, teenagers will compare themselves and focus solely on wanting to fit that mould. Sometimes not being able to fit that unrealistic mould can lead to depression, because they don’t feel good enough, or even lead to eating disorders.

Cyberbullying on social media and mental health

But social media is now a part of the everyday routine, something that you cannot avoid entirely. From keeping up to date with what your friends are up to, to keep in contact with friends abroad, it’s our gateway to the rest of the world. There is a dark side to social media, with cyberbullying and “trolling” social media can be a breeding ground for negativity, which can lead to poor mental health.

While it can be harmful, social media has the power to improve mood and allow people to feel connected. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020, we saw the power that technology gave us, allowing us to stay connected even when cities were under lockdown. But once again, it comes back to moderation. The more excessive a person’s use of social networking sites, the more likely it will affect their mental health.

Protecting your children from the bad side of social media

Most teens spend upwards of 9 hours a day consuming media [10]. Picking up their phones out of habit, and lack of inspiration to do something else. By steering them towards alternative hobbies like sports or playing an instrument, you will get them away from their screens and open their minds to new interests. While also safeguarding them against social network overexposure that could potentially be damaging their mental health, these hobby shifts could protect their eyes. Limiting screen time and spending more time outside has been proven to prevent myopia progression [11].

You want to be able to protect them from these dangers, without crowding their growing need for independence. One of the best ways to do that is through the planoApp. The planoApp has a science-based technological solution that is ideal for monitoring your child’s relationship with their screen and protecting their eye health. With the help of planoApp you are able to make sure that your child remembers how far away to hold their device, that there is sufficient light in the environment.

The planoApp is also perfect for protecting your children from overexposure to social media; allowing you as a parent to lock their devices from anywhere, schedule device free time and allowing you to create safe zones for when they are out by themselves. These features let you monitor your kids and keep them safe, while allowing them to grow into their independence.

This digital age can be daunting, but don’t let fear win. Protect your children, and encourage them to see beyond the filters, and be excited for the world that awaits them.

References:

[1] Emily Drago. The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol 6, No.1. 2015.

[2] Lauren Goode. Should I Spend $1,000 on a Smartphone? Wired. 2019.

[3] The World Health Organization (WHO), (2017). An evidence map of social, behavioural and community engagement interventions for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, WHO

[4] Kessler et al., (2007). Age of onset mental disorders: A review of recent literature (1st ed.) Curr. Opin. Psychiatry

[5] World Health Organization (WHO). Adolescent Mental Health. 2020.

[6] Royal Society for Public Health, and Young Health Movement (RSPH), (2017). StatusOfMind social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, RSPH

[7] Sampasa Kanyinga, H. and Lewis R.F. Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking. p. 380-385. 2015.

[8] Mind. Mental Health Problems – An Introduction.

[9] Franchina, V., Lo Coco, G. (2018).  The influence of social media use on body image concerns, International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Education

[10] Wallace, K. (2015). Teens spend 9 hours a day using media, report says, CNN

[11] Ian G Morgan, Amanda N. French, Regan S. Ashby, Xinxing Guo, Xiaohu Ding, Mingguang He, Kathryn A Rose. The Epidemics of Myopia: Aetiology and Prevention. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, Vol 62, pages 134-149. 2018.

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