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Social Media and Mental Health

Social Media and Mental Health

There is a lot of talk these days about Mental Health – a once taboo subject in polite company. But burying our heads in the sand or ignoring the fact that GOOD mental health plays an important role in our daily success should not be taboo.  Awareness of the effects of our daily activities, including those online, on our children’s mental health is important to note.  I have been in conversations lately with a great organization – Recall Their goal is to report the latest dangerous drugs and products to keep you and your family safe. Also included on their website is a lot of useful information regarding the impact of social media on our children’s mental health. Here are some excerpts from their site:

Social Media Can Have a Negative Impact on Youth Mental Health

 Social media sites are numerous and popular, especially with young people, and are not likely to go away. For many, being active on sites like Facebook and Instagram are positive experiences: sharing pictures, connecting with friends, and staying up to date with family. On the other hand, social media has been shown to have a negative impact on mental health, and young people and teens are particularly vulnerable.

Social Media Lowers Self-Esteem

Adults are not immune to this effect, but teens are often just finding their own sense of self and developing self-esteem. Social media often presents young people with unrealistic, idealistic images of what it’s like to be a teen or young adult. People active on social media tend to share only their best pictures, best days, the best things that happen in their lives. This sends a false message to vulnerable young people that everyone’s life is better than yours, everyone is prettier and thinner, and everyone is achieving more and having more fun.

Comparisons that are impossible not to make on social media can lower self-esteem. So too can the kind of feedback a young person gets to status updates and pictures. Studies have proven what seems obvious: positive feedback raises self-esteem and negative feedback lowers it. Other studies have pointed to more broad generalizations, including the fact that more time spent on social media correlates with lower self-esteem.

 Anxiety, Depression, and Social Media

Use of social media has also been correlated in young people with greater levels of anxiety and depression. “Facebook Depression” – a new term was coined after several studies found that teens spending more time on Social Media are more likely to suffer from depression. FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out – is very real for today’s teen. Feeling excluded, negative comments, or worse – no comments at all, seeing others always having fun, and assuming others have it easy or happy all the time, can all lead to a false sense of not being worthy and MISSING OUT ON A BETTER LIFE.

 Social Media Makes Cyberbullying Possible

Bullying of any type is persistent intimidation, which is traditionally physical, but in the modern world can be entirely virtual. Online bullying (cyberbullying) can have a seriously detrimental effect on a young person’s mental health and it is easy for a bully to target and attack using social media. Some of the impacts of being cyberbullied include anxiety, depression, isolation, and suicide.

Using social media sites can actually have some positive benefits for young people: socializing with peers, being creative, collaborating, learning, making connections, and getting support in difficult times, etc. Unfortunately the downsides to social media can be devastating for some youths. It is important for parents and other adults to be aware of what teens are doing online and to help them learn to self-regulate social media use and to cope with things like cyberbullying, negative feedback, and comparisons.

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