10 Ways Social Media Is Affecting Your Teen's Mental Health

Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube - Social media is a staple of adolescents' form of socialization and community. Not only does social media help those who struggle with face-to-face interactions or social anxiety to help build their communication and socialization skills, but it can help teens form friendships, exchange ideas, and provide emotional support. Yet with 95% of teenagers having access to a smartphone, and 45% claiming to be online 'almost constantly', social media can have negative consequences on your teen's mental health.

Although social media has some benefits - researchers have deemed a mental health phenomenon amongst teens who spend too much time on social media as having 'Facebook Depression. Along with symptoms of depression - these teenagers become at risk for feeling isolation, disconnection, and display self-destructive behaviour.

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10 Self-Esteem and Identity

Peer acceptance rates highly on the scale of what teenagers consider important in developing their self-worth. According to the Child Mind Institute, preadolescents and teens are at a higher risk of developing Imposter Syndrome which is the 'fake identity' they share to social media. This can be devastating on their mental health since it can be difficult on their self-esteem when they try to consolidate who they actually are with a filtered-image of how they portray themselves online.

With teenagers focusing on how many 'likes' they receive, agonizing over their appearance in 'selfies', and constantly comparing themselves to peers - only 24% of adolescents see this aspect of social media as having a negative effect.

9 Relationships

Social media are websites and applications meant to virally link us to a social network, to share and exchange information and knowledge, and connect us to family and friends as a form of communicative and social expression.

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However, with the rise of social media use, face-to-face interaction has been reduced thus creating an association to poorer psychological functioning. With minimal human connection, it becomes less difficult to build empathy and compassion skills needed to form and maintain meaningful relationships. Too much time on social media can also affect oral and verbal communication skills, as well as non-verbal communication such as reading body language cues. Despite not needing to be a master of these skills to interact face-to-face, learning how to use them plays a big part in effective communication in relationships.

8 Motivation

Teens aren't generally known for their motivation, however, since the spike of social media uses among adolescents, this has increased them to be uninspired through constant instant gratification online.

According to psychologist Dr.Maslow's theory of Hierarchy of Needs, human's have two types of needs: those we are deficient in and one's required for growth. People have three classifications of needs such as basic, psychological, and self-fulfilment. His theory suggests that once one is no longer deficient as a need, such as self-fulfilment through instant gratification, an individual will no longer be motivated to strive for more.

7 Sense of Accomplishment

Studies show a link between Facebook users (of both genders) to a link of depressive symptoms, reported in a survey where 50% of recipients claimed to 'feel worse' after spending time on social media. Social comparisons and negative self-evaluations reduce feelings of accomplishment due to false media-imagery.

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Teens, as well as adults, may see these grandiose achievements or lives of their peers online and be unable to differentiate what is genuine and what is fake. Since social media magnifies the importance of confidence, self-esteem, and exploits; it can quickly lead anyone to feel inadequate.

6 Interrupted Sleep Cycle

The National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of Americans use some form of technology before going to bed, particularly teens and young adults.  This is an alarming statistic, as inadequate sleep for children and youth can have grave effects on their mental, physical and emotional health.

Not only is the extra stimulation of being 'connected' to a social network before bedtime strenuous on a body trying to rest, but the light from screens can reduce melatonin levels, which can upset a teen's biological clock according to the American Medical Association.  Sleep deprivation can limit executive functioning, energy levels, and academic performance but it increases the odds of depression and anxiety in teenagers.

5 Behaviour

Due to the fact that social media can create feelings of worthlessness, poor self-esteem, and interrupt a teen's sleep cycle - this could create feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and irritability in your teen. Since youth aren't fully capable of self-regulating tasks based on their own well being, being constantly 'connected' can create feelings of being overwhelmed even towards minimal responsibilities.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that youth who overuse online media are at risk of developing Problematic Internet Use. or Internet Dependency.  As described in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 - Problematic Internet use can cause symptoms of depression, anxiety, dissociation or disconnected interest of the 'real world'. The AAP also cautions parents about the exposure of alcohol, drug, tobacco use, sexual behaviours, self-injury, and disordered eating online which is normalized through social networking sites.

4 Academics

It goes without saying that when one is constantly discouraged, tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged: it makes learning difficult. However, studies show that teens who overuse social media can struggle academically.

In a study conducted by the University of Nebraska, 38% of the respondents admitted their were addicted to social media, and 51.7% revealed that social media has distracted them from their studies and affected their academic performance. Although technology can be extremely advantageous for academic purposes such as researching and exchanging information, it must be done in moderation.

3 Cyberbullying

With Social Networking Sites being a means of an accessible and preferred form of communication among teens, well over half of the adolescent respondents in a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Centre report having experienced cyberbullying, with 10-20% of them experiencing it regularly.

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Despite more studies needing to be conducted on the long-term effects of Cyberbullying on children and teenagers, experts say that youth who have been cyberbullied or who have been the bully themselves, are at a greater risk of depression, anxiety, other stress-related disorders, and suicidal thoughts/attempts.

2 Isolation

It can be a contradictory statement to say 'social media causes isolation', yet researchers have found that teenagers who use social media heavily were three times more likely to feel isolated. This could be caused by feeling left out by peers,  low confidence to partake in social settings, or exchanging face to face interactions needed to create meaningful relationships.

Many users use social media as a form of escaping reality when faced by uncomfortable or social stressors, which can further feelings of isolation when healthy coping skills aren't applied.  Studies have demonstrated feelings of loneliness and isolation negatively impacts a developing brain resulting in adult behavioural and cognitive dysfunction.

1 It Affects A Growing Brain

Too much time on social media, not only can influence your teen's mental health but can affect a developing brain.  Although the psychological symptoms may be more visible to concerned friends, family, and teachers - depression is associated with both functional and structural brain abnormalities.

Depending on the severity and duration of depression in children and youth, regions of the brain such as the hippocampus, thalamus, amygdala, frontal and prefrontal cortices can shrink. Those with severe prolonger depression are more likely to have brain inflammation and oxygen restriction which can create problems for functioning neurotransmitters, neuroplasticity, learning and memory, mood, and cause brain cell death.

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