Social media has influenced many lives, yet many people still question its benefits and risks for mental health. This debate continues despite evidence that social media indeed has negative effects. In particular, social media may have a profound negative effect on teenagers who are at high risk for or suffer from, mental disorders. Moreover, young adults (ages 18 to 25), who are at the highest risk for mental disorders, have the largest number of friends on social networking sites: More than two-thirds!
What does this mean for teenagers? Using social media may be a way for a teenager to connect with others and build relationships outside the “real” world. As such, it can increase a teenager’s chance of developing an anxiety disorder. One study published in the journal Youth and Mental Health found that teenagers who spent more time socializing online had higher levels of anxiety than those who did not. The amount of time spent on social networking sites was correlated with the amount of anxiousness, rather than the other way around.
Is it all about anxiety and depression? Not quite. Youth researchers have identified social media as playing a role in teenage depression and other disorders. It seems that social interaction may be a symptom for other mental health issues, or at least it may play a part in their development.
As mentioned earlier, this problem has become much worse over the past five years. There’s no telling what the cause is. Some scientists believe that the rise of social media use and its negative effects is linked to changes in how humans process information. Others point to increases in the prevalence of smartphones and tablets. These devices are increasing the amount of information that can be exchanged simultaneously.
In addition to the negative effects of social media on mental health, these devices may also encourage loneliness and lead to other types of problems. Researchers have noted that young people have lower self-esteem when they don’t socialize enough with older people. Social media websites have increased the amount of loneliness among adolescents, which may be linked to their increased depressive symptoms. Further studies are needed to evaluate these effects.
Overall, the use of social media has a negative impact on the mental health of adolescents. However, the problem lies in being able to distinguish between social media that actually cause changes in behaviour and those that simply create unrealistic expectations. Experts now agree that it is important for adolescents to learn how to handle technology. This will allow them to make healthy decisions about the types of media that they use and how they use it.