Social media use and its effect on mental health

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

Can you imagine your life without Instagram or Facebook? For many of us, it’s not a big deal to walk away from social media for a while. But for others – especially teen and young adults – that have grown up in a social media driven world, living without the ability to be connected at all times online is an almost impossible thing to imagine. Much of today’s youth culture is online almost constantly and their life is dominated and sometimes even controlled by social media. A new study out of Ottawa Public Health looked at how social media usage plays into a young person’s overall mental health.

The study found that for those teens that are using social media for two or more hours each day, they are more likely to struggle with mental health, suicidal thoughts, and psychological stress.  The study collected data from 750 students ranging from seventh to twelfth grade and 25% reported being connected to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for at least two hours a day. This group was also more likely to show signs of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. (1) 

Is there a solution?
The first step to solving the overuse of social media is to limit access to it when kids are young.  It’s more and more common to see babies and toddlers fixated on phones or tablets that are in their hands. In fact, a recent study showed that almost half of parents in North West area of the United Kingdom think that their kids are addicted to digital devices.  Approximately 44% are fastened to their screens, with tablets being the top technology for children (39% of children have their own iPad).  More than a third (38%) of North West kids also own a mobile phone, while nearly a quarter (24%) have already got Facebook. The group that showed to be the most tech-crazy were 8 to 10 year olds. (2)  Having your kids exposed to technology is not bad. In fact, it is very beneficial and necessary for them to know how to use the Internet and operate a computer well. But, when they begin craving screen time, there is a line. Parents should always limit access to technology by letting them use it in moderation. Light from screens can disrupt sleep patterns and can lead to overall mental decline, including behavioral issues, difficulty focusing, and in some cases even the development of attention deficit disorder. If this is how kids are using technology when they are 6, 7, and 8 years old, then imagine how much worse it will be when they enter the teenage years. 

Excess use of technology will damage them physically and oftentimes socially and emotionally as well.

1) Gregoire, Carolyn. “Heavy Social Media Use Linked With Mental Health Issues in Teens.” Huffington Post. July 28, 2015. Accessed online October 9, 2015.

2) Arthur, Sam. “Parents believe North West toddlers and teens are hooked on tablets, phones, and games, says report.” Mancunian Matters. July 31, 2014. Accessed online October 9, 2015.