Several studies out of the UK have been focused on the relationship between adolescents and social media. As teenagers develop, do the rush of comments and likes have any impact on their mental health and well-being?
Teenagers seem to have a need to respond to social media engagement as soon as frequently as possible, just as if they obligatory real-world interactions. This feeling goes beyond social media apps, and can even be observed in basic SMS exchanges.
One study surveyed over 450 teenagers regarding when they used social media and the impact it had on mental health and quality of sleep. It found that the combination of a high emotional investment in social media, along with heavy usage in the evening, led to lowered self-esteem and heightened anxiety. Predictably, it also had a measurably negative impact on sleep. Another study also examined the impact social media had on health, but regardless of time of day. This second study found that adolescents who regularly used some platforms for over two hours had higher stress levels, and a few even were more likely to report suicidal thoughts.
The adolescent brain is still developing, and that means that we must emphasize responsible usage of social media during this crucial period of mental development. The data is in, and social media can be addicting. The question isn’t how to avoid using it— these platforms are here to stay, and in many instances provide some kind of social good! Instead, we should work to avoid over-reliance. Sometimes, it’s OK to unplug and let their minds wander.