NWPC Blog

How Social Media Addiction Affects Teenagers

Nearly 77% of all Americans have a social media profile of some kind. While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are designed to bring people together, the lack of interpersonal face-to-face relationships, well-curated content and pervasive cyberbullying are leaving some teenagers to feel symptoms of anxiety, depression, and isolation

So, are teens who spend more time on social media more likely to suffer anxiety or depression? Recent studies have shown that teenagers do experience adverse effects like loneliness and depression when it comes to overuse and after facing instances of online bullying. To make things easier, we’re sharing new insights that cover the connections between social media overuse and how it affects mental health, along with some tips that will help parents mitigate internet addiction in teenagers.

Social Media and Self Esteem

Today, 70% of teens ages 13 to 17 check their social media profiles more than once a day. Some tech-savvy teenagers are aware that plenty of people use Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook to promote a manicured portrayal of their identities. Some teens are also better than others about recognizing face-perfecting filters and can recognize staged photos as curated images versus reality. Yet, intentionally produced content, and Instagram posts of celebrities or friends appearing thinner, wealthier, happier, and more attractive, also have the effect of surfacing insecurities, anxiety and depression in vulnerable teenagers who tend to compare themselves to what they see online. These negative self-comparisons are especially prevalent in young women who are constantly inundated with images of the perfect body or lifestyle. 

Additionally, it’s not just the onlookers that experience symptoms of depression and low self-esteem that are associated with social media addiction. Those who are adept at creating perfect images of themselves, or their lives, can also endure anxiety and fear rejection based on what they see online. They may even question if their friends genuinely like their “real” personal lives if their personalities don’t align with what they present online. 

Technology Addiction and Decreased Physical Activity

Many of us know the correlation between regular exercise and improved mental health. Physical activity increases brain function, helps us develop new skills, and leads to increased feelings of self-worth and personal accomplishment. Spending too much time online typically translates into less participation in physical activities that foster confidence and improves our well-being. Teens with social media addictions tend to spend more time scrolling through their online profiles and allocate less time to physical fitness, which means reduced opportunities for them to experience the mental health advantages of exercise. 

Sleep Deprivation and Depression

One of the most common contributors to depression among teenagers is sleep deprivation. A recent study showed that teenagers who use social media for five hours or more daily were 70% more likely to fall asleep later or get less sleep compared to those who are online less. Sleep quality is typically inhibited or aggravated by social media addiction because teens are staying up later, blue light interferes with melatonin production, or it can create feelings of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which can lead to anxiety and low self-worth.

Tips for Teenagers Dealing with Social Media Addiction 

While it’s too early to write that social media addiction directly causes depression, psychologists believe it does dramatically increase symptoms associated with it. Therefore, it’s important for parents to learn how to thoughtfully monitor their kids’ time online to help them make healthier choices. A few easy tips for limiting your teen’s social media include: 

  • Encourage a healthy balance of personal interactions offline and online. Get them involved in sports or other community activities that promote personal interactions and self-confidence.
  • Set a timeline for phone use before bed. Ask your teenager to leave their phone out of their bedroom after a certain time.
  • Turn off notifications that can distract them during homework or family time.
  • Reward your teen for decreasing screen time. Try treating them to their favorite dinner or take them out to the movies if they reduce their time spent online. 
  • Help your kids learn about body positivity
  • Teach them how to think critically about the images or content they see online. 

Northwest Primary Care Supports Your Family’s Mental Health

Seek help if you notice any of the signs associated with social media addiction that could increase depression and anxiety in your teenager. If you’re concerned or notice any signs common with depression and anxiety due to overuse, don’t hesitate to make an appointment at one of our Portland, Oregon clinics to speak with one of our family physicians today.