Social Media and Teen Mental Health

As a society, we are developing quite a complicated relationship with technology- more specifically social media. There is a generational divide as to how we interpret the effects of social media, with tweens and teens loving every second of screen time to older generations scorning the day the internet was created- who is in the right?

We have seen a decline in the mental health of teens since the late 2000s, which is coincidentally around the time IPhones first popped onto the scene, and Facebook was created. It would make sense to correlate the two (the rise of technology and the decline of teens’ mental health) but that may not necessarily be the case.

The problem doesn’t inherently lie within social media, but rather with screen time. The more screen time a teen has the less likely they are to socialize in groups in person or participate in a different activity. Teens are more likely to stay up at night in favor of their screen versus sleep which has a profound effect on anyone’s mental health.

Although it is still important to make sure teens are safe with their time on the internet it’s not the end of the world that they are on the internet in the first place. For a lot of teens’, the internet can be the first place they find a group of people or a community of support they might not find elsewhere- like in the home, their small hometown, or even at school.

Teens face so much pressure in their lives that often gets overlooked because of their age. They’re trying to graduate high school, get good grades and good ACT and SAT scores, get into colleges, think about their major, and figure out how they’re paying for college.  They spend at least 35 hours a week in school, add on hours of homework, and after-school circulars, then work on top of it all, and then try to find some time to spend with friends and family.

It is much easier to find other people you can relate to and connect with online that are facing similar challenges and emotions that come with growing up versus trying to connect with older family members who don’t take their very real struggles seriously because they’re still ‘kids.’

This isn’t to say all groups on the internet are good for teens, there are real, tangible dangers like phishing, human traffickers, and terrorist groups that target lonely teens looking for a place to belong online.

However, with the pandemic limiting in-person interactions the internet and social media gave teens a way to connect and form some sense out of the senselessness that the pandemic created. It also gave some teens a newfound appreciation for in-person interactions, seeing as they were forced to miss some of the most rewarding tangible moments of high school like prom and graduations.

It is important to acknowledge that kids just don’t go outside and play like they used to, but it is also important to note that our world has become increasingly more dangerous since those days; some kids don’t have access to safe outdoor areas, some parents aren’t able to spend the time making sure their children are being safe outside let alone on the internet.

We can’t control teens and what they want to do and where they want to do it- historically anyone who tries it fails miserably. What we can do is give them all the information possible about being safe on the internet and make sure they can take care of their mental health.

If you want a teen in your life to spend less time on their screen, be prepared to spend quality time with them- that means not looking at your screen, active listening, and showing interest in what they're talking to you about, it may be more important to them than you realize.  

Giving kids lessons about social, emotional, and life skills can ensure that they are ready for whatever they might encounter on and off the internet. Rock Digi can help with that- we provide lessons that focus on having empathy for others, accepting others, anger management, anxiety, and depression. It is important for kids, who will eventually become teens, to learn these skills so they are less likely to do poorly in school and develop substance abuse issues.

Whatever your stance is on teens using social media, we call all agree the internet (and the world) would be a better place with more socially and emotionally intelligent people.

Visit for more information and free trial lessons.


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