For a generation of kids and teens who have never known a world when constant digital connection didn’t exist, the impact of the constant connection and comparison is still be studied. While some small studies have been conducted, it’s not possible yet to gather long term impact. There’s also the constantly evolving nature and platforms that makes research more challenging.
While there are some noted benefits to the instant virtual connection they can make with their peers they might never otherwise meet, there is also the negative impact of constant comparison, bullying, and a new level of virtual peer pressure.
It’s important if the negative effects to begin to have an impact on a teen’s mental health, to seek support and guidance early, to help them work through the issues before they escalate. This can be in the form of cognitive talk therapy or psychiatric treatment.
Results from several small studies certainly raise concerns ranging from increased risk for depression and sleep issues, to eating disorders
While there’s much room for concern, there are also some social and emotional benefits to social media use, especially for teens who struggle socially or who identify with marginalized groups. The ability to connect almost immediately with like minded peers, some who they may never have the ability to meet in real life, makes socializing easier and helps teens struggling to feel less isolated and alone. These online peer groups can provide commoradary and support they may otherwise never find.
When comparing the potential positives with potential negatives the negative impact of social media on teens wellbeing, the negative seems to outweigh the positive. The amount of time they spend on social media certainly impacts the potential damage done, but in addition to increased risk of anxiety and depression, the negatives include:
Like everything moderation is key, and time spent on social media certainly plays a role in its impact on mental health and well being. There’s no need to block all social media despite the risks, what’s important is to find a health balance and relationship with the digital world and to always seek professional help before the burden of the negative impacts becomes too much to bear.