Teens, Mental Health and Social Media | Whittier, CA | PIH Health

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Published on April 11, 2022

What you Should Know About Teens, Mental Health and Social Media

Photo of a teen sitting on a couch while typing on a smartphoneNow more than ever, teens are utilizing social media as a primary method of communication. Whether they are feeling happy, sad or are experiencing a major milestone in life, they will take it to social media to share with their friends and network. Scrolling, sharing and commenting is what has become the “new norm” for teens and how they communicate with friends.

“Social Media is a good way to keep people connected—especially during the peak of the pandemic,” says Ning Yang, PIH Health pediatrician in Hacienda Heights. “But we also noticed an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression as well as a lack of sleep among youth/teen patients who spend excessive time on social media.”

As with all things, balance is key. This is especially important when it comes to teens and social media usage. The reason being is that teens are still learning how to effectively communicate with the outside world and doing so behind a screen can silo them into only one form of communication which makes it difficult to interact in person. They are also learning about themselves and who they are.

Over usage of social media has been known to increase anxiety and depression in large part due to:

  1. Photo shopped images, making teens feel like they have to live up to a certain expectation.
  2. Post likes. The amount of likes a post gets which contributes to peer acceptance insecurities. If a post doesn’t generate as many likes as their friend’s post, it can cause them to feel down or insecure about themselves and the content they share.
  3. Cyberbullying. Teens can get mean and say things through a screen that most people would not say in person. This makes bullying easier and also harder to manage because some school districts are still exploring policies and how to track cyberbullies.

“I recommend parents to talk to theirs kids regarding the impact of social media on their health and mental health,” says Dr. Yang. Some tips Dr. Yang provides are:

  1. Avoid using electronic devices in bed.
  2. Set time limits and parental controls on your child’s device (varies by manufacturer).
  3. Create tech-free zones such as at the table, eating breakfast, lunch or dinner or during family time.
  4. Keep up-to-date or have knowledge on what apps your child is active on and using. The more you know, the better you will understand and will be able to communicate with your teen.
  5. Lead by example. Give your teen your undivided attention when they are speaking with you and avoid hiding behind your device when you are interacting with them.

If your teen is struggling with anxiety or depression, schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or mental health professional right away. To find a PIH Health pediatrician near you or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Yang, visit: PIHHealth.org/Find-a-Doctor.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.