Teens and Screens: The Dangers of Social Media Use

Teens and Screens

Teens and Screens: The Dangers of Social Media Use

Social media use amongst teens has been increasing for years. Teens are glued to their devices keeping up with the latest trends in music, fashion, pop culture, and more. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 71% of teens use more than one social networking site, and Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are rated most popular. While social media can be a great way for people to express themselves and stay connected to others who share similar interests, excessive use can have a damaging effect on mental health, particularly during adolescence.

Compare and Despair

According to a report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK, image-based social media apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat, have detrimental effects on the mental health of many teens and young adults. These visually-oriented apps can cause teens to experience a “compare and despair” attitude as well as a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) mindset. When seeing pictures and videos of their peers experiencing things they might not experience themselves, teens feel that their lives are not as cool or exciting as those of their peers. When consuming social media, adolescents often fail to consider the fact that the images may be staged and the Instagram feed carefully curated to give the impression of excitement and adventure, leading them to feel less interesting or popular than their peers. This can also lead to decreased self-esteem and even depression. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh found that teens who used social media often were nearly three times more likely to be depressed than teens who used it less. Another study demonstrated that Facebook usage decreased adolescents’ satisfaction with their own lives.

Excessive Use

Excessive social media usage has a large impact on youth’s self-esteem. With an estimated 93% of teens online, many using multiple social platforms, it is important to be aware of how behavior can impact young people. Young people who spend two or more hours daily engaging with social media tend to rate their mental health as lower than peers who use less. Self-esteem issues are said to be caused by social networks, where self-presentation is the primary function.  The need for external gratification can lead to the promotion of narcissistic behavior and the pressure to create an unrealistically flattering version of reality and intense anxiety when photos and posts do not garner the intended response.

Social media is also a place for promotion of dangerous unattainable physical ideals. Several studies have shown the negative impacts of social media hit girls harder than boys. Photo editing tools and filters make it difficult for girls to know what is real and what is not, leading them to feel pressured to look more like the doctored photos their peers are posting. This, in turn, leads to self-loathing.

Minimizing the Effects

While these findings are fairly new, organizations are working to teach healthy ways to use social media to minimize the damaging effects. It is important to recognize the impact social media has on youth and to use it in ways that are healthy and beneficial. Some ideas for positive social media engagement:

  • Make sure that social use builds upon and strengthens existing relationships.
  • Use social media to keep in touch with friends and family who live elsewhere.
  • Use social to connect with charities, organizations,  and online communities of people who are involved with causes.
  • Provide support and feedback to others.
  • Use social to learn about the world and current events.
  • Use social media to learn about and follow inspiring people.


About Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.:
Established in 2002 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, BHPI is a Managed Behavioral Health Organization offering behavioral health services through a fully integrated network of world-class healthcare providers.  Our emphasis is on adding value for our customers by offering expert behavioral care management, medical coordination, and behavioral disease and chronic behavioral condition management.  BHPI offers collaborative solutions by building strong partnerships with health plans, health systems, community mental health organizations, and employer groups.   For more information visit:BHPI.org