social media and teen mental health

Social Media and Youth Advisory Issued Again

February 21, 2024

The mental health emergency in the United States has reached an inflection point, with widespread public consensus that urgent action is necessary. Concerns include mental health challenges among children and teenagers, now recognized as being at a crisis level. The long-term impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated these issues. In this crucial moment, nearly half of all parents responding to a KFF/CNN survey reported that the pandemic has adversely impacted their children’s mental health.

Parents are rightfully worried, with over 80% expressing concern over depression, substance use and anxiety among teenagers. Furthermore, about 70% fear the negative impacts of self-harm, eating disorders and pandemic-related loneliness. These statistics paint a stark picture of the pervasive nationwide anxiety surrounding our youth’s well-being.

The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media

In 2023, the dialogue reached a significant turning point when Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory titled “Social Media and Youth Mental Health.” This report points to a growing body of evidence indicating that social media platforms may contribute to the decline in young people’s mental health. The American Psychological Association later issued a similar warning echoing this concern, highlighting the nuanced and complex relationship between social media use and mental well-being.

Social media’s impact on teens is multifaceted. On one hand, it can adversely affect their self-esteem and expose them to cyberbullying or dangerous right-wing beliefs. On the other, it can offer avenues for making healthy connections – especially for lonely adolescents belonging to marginalized groups. This duality presents a conundrum for today’s parents trying to raise healthy teens. Adolescence – a critical developmental period – poses additional challenges as teens grapple with impulse control and emotional regulation amid the omnipresence of technology.

Recommendations for Parents

There are no straightforward solutions to such complex issues. The secret is to strike a balance, recognizing social media’s potential to foster connections while being acutely aware of its capacity to exacerbate or trigger mental health issues. For parents, this means adopting a proactive and informed approach to your children’s social media use, engaging in open dialogues about online experiences and setting healthy boundaries to protect their mental well-being.

  1. Open communication: Foster an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their online experiences and the emotions they evoke.
  2. Educate on healthy usage: Teach children about the importance of balanced social media use and the potential risks involved. Talk to them about the warning signs of disorders like depression and anxiety.
  3. Monitor and set boundaries: Implement reasonable limits on social media use, emphasizing quality over quantity and encouraging offline activities and hobbies.
  4. Model positive behavior: Lead by example, showing your teens how to maintain a healthy relationship with technology. Demonstrate responsible use of devices like your smartphone, tablet and laptop.
  5. Seek professional guidance: If signs of mental health issues arise, don’t hesitate to ask for help from mental health professionals.

A Gathering Place for Young People to Recover

The KFF/CNN survey and the parallel advisories from the APA and surgeon general’s office are critical reminders of the importance of youth mental health. You can guide your child to a brighter future by acknowledging the issue’s complexity and taking informed, proactive steps.

At The Forum, our years of experience in teen addiction treatment, mental health care, behavioral health and neuropsychology allow us to meet the diverse needs of San Diego adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. Contact us today to learn how we can transform your child’s life.