Social media is a powerful thing, and it can be used for many different purposes. But when it comes to teens and social media, the lines between good and bad usage get blurred. Teenagers, especially ones who are already prone to mental illness like depression and anxiety, can be particularly susceptible to the dangerous effects of social media. Cyberbullying, rising depression rates, poor body image, and an overall lack of moderation are just some of the many negative consequences that social media brings. This article discusses the link between social media and teenage depression, and the recommended treatments for teens who may be addicted or unhealthily attached to social media.
Social Media and Teenage Depression
Depression rates among teenagers have been on the rise for years, and it is now considered one of the most common mental illnesses in young people. This rise parallels the increase in teen suicide rates since the 1990s, which should be of concern to all parents, educators, and universities alike. While many factors may be contributing to the growing teen mental health crisis, social media is often scrutinized as one of the leading causes. And it’s not just that teenagers who are depressed are more likely to use social media – social media may actually pave the way for depression to set in.
Cyberbullying and Social Media
Cyberbullying has become a digital epidemic in today’s society, and it is prevalent across nearly all major social media platforms. With the lack of enforceable and consistent regulations that protect users from cyberbullying on any of these sites, oftentimes online bullying goes completely unchecked. For young teens who lack emotional maturity to properly deal with bullies in real life, this can be a huge problem. Victims of cyberbullying experience lasting physical, psychological, and emotional effects:
- Poor grades in school
- Low self-esteem
- More frequent illness
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Poor school attendance
Unrealistic Body Image Standards
The unrealistic body image standards that are promoted by social media are damaging to both boys and girls. But for young girls, the pressure to appear perfect online can be extremely dangerous. The constant bombardment of images on social media of surgically enhanced models and celebrities has manufactured a beauty standard that is impossible for teenagers to achieve. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), numerous correlational and experimental studies have linked exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women.
- Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight.
- Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men. This effect may be smaller than among women but it is still significant.
- Conversely, Black-oriented television shows may serve a protective function; Hispanic and Black girls and women who watch more Black-oriented television have higher body satisfaction.
Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction, much like any other type of digital or technology addiction, is characterized by compulsive checking and use that results in negative consequences. This compulsion can result in a decreased amount of time spent on non-social media activities such as sleep, schoolwork, and physical activity. Social media addiction can be extremely harmful to teenagers who may not have developed proper coping mechanisms or healthy real-world relationships to support them through difficult times. Instead, teens turn to social media as a form of escape and often fall into destructive patterns that can lead to co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.
If you are concerned about your teenager’s mental health and social media usage, it is important to seek professional help. There are many qualified therapists who specialize in teenage depression treatment. Some common therapies used to treat depression include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Individual Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Medication Management and Monitoring
Teens are often selective in deciding what information to share with their parents on a daily basis. For this reason, parents may underestimate or overlook their teen’s mental health issues.
Common Symptoms of Depression
Monitor your teen for the following symptoms of depression:
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Irritability, anger, sadness, or anxiety that interfere with daily life
- Excessive tiredness or low energy levels
Social Media Addiction Symptoms:
Social media addiction can prevent your teen from forming healthy relationships in real life. Furthermore, it is widely understood that social media and teenage depression are interconnected. Look out for these symptoms if you suspect your teen is addicted to social media.
- Using social media to escape unpleasant emotions
- Checking social media compulsively, to the point where it interferes with daily life activities
- Becoming defensive or secretive about social media usage
- Feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or anxious when away from social media
- Losing interest in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyable
- Falling grades at school due to lack of focus
- Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
The symptoms of depression and social media addiction can seriously interfere with your teen’s daily life and normal functioning. If left untreated, the condition may worsen and continue to cause problems. It is important to seek professional help if you are concerned about your teen’s mental health. With the right diagnosis and treatment, your teen can get back on track to a healthy, happy life.
How Does Therapy Help Teens Overcome Depression?
Therapy can help your teen cope with difficult emotions and form healthy relationships in real life. Whether they are struggling with a social media addiction or depression as a result of cyberbullying, a trained therapist can help pinpoint events or triggers that contribute to their depression. Teens will learn to change, accept or adapt to their circumstances, set realistic goals for the future, identify distorted thought processes or unhelpful behaviors, and develop coping skills.
If you or your teen are struggling with depression or social media addiction, reach out to Brett Beaver today to set up an initial appointment.
Reach out To a Trained Therapist Now
For questions about how adolescent therapy or family therapy can help with depression, reach the office of Brett Beaver, LMFT, by using this quick contact form. You can learn more about Brett and his approach to therapy. call our office at 925-324-4514.