Teens and Social Media Use: What's the Impact?
By Mayo Clinic staff
Social media plays a huge role in the lives of many teenagers. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of nearly 750 13-17 year olds found that 45% are online almost all the time and 97% use a social media platform like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.
But what are the effects of social media use on young people?
Benefits of Social Media
Social media enables teenagers to create online identities, communicate with others and build social networks. These networks can offer valuable support to teenagers, especially when they are affected by exclusion, disabilities or chronic illnesses.
Young people also use social media for entertainment and self-expression. And the platforms can expose youth to current events, allow them to interact across geographic barriers, and teach them a variety of topics, including healthy behaviors. Social media that is humorous, distracting, or provides a meaningful connection with their peers, and broad social networking can even help teens avoid depression.
Social media harm
However, social media use can also negatively impact teenagers, distracting them, disrupting their sleep and exposing them to bullying, rumor-spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives, and peer pressure.
The risks could be related to how much social media teens are using. A 2019 study of more than 6,500 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States found that those who spend more than three hours a day using social media may be at increased risk of mental health problems. Another 2019 study of more than 12,000 13-16 year olds in England found that using social media more than three times a day predicts poor mental health and well-being in teenagers.
Other studies have also observed associations between high social media use and depression or anxiety symptoms. A 2016 study of more than 450 teens found that greater social media use, nighttime social media use, and emotional investment in social media — such as .
How teenagers use social media could also determine their impact. A 2015 study found that social comparison and seeking feedback from teenagers using social media and cell phones was associated with depressive symptoms. Additionally, a small 2013 study found that older teens who used social media passively, such as just looking at photos of others, reported a drop in life satisfaction. Those who used social media to interact with others or post their own content did not experience these declines.
And a previous study of the impact of social media on undergraduate students showed that the longer they used Facebook, the stronger their belief that others were happier than they were. But the more time the students spent going out with their friends, the less they felt that feeling.
Due to the impulsive nature of teens, experts believe teens who post content on social media run the risk of sharing intimate photos or highly personal stories. This can lead to young people being bullied, harassed or even blackmailed. Teens often post without considering these consequences or privacy concerns.
Protect your teenager
There are steps you can take to encourage responsible use of social media and limit some of its negative effects. Consider these tips:
- Set reasonable boundaries.Talk to your teen about how to avoid social media interfering with their activities, sleep, meals, or homework. Encourage a bedtime that avoids electronic media use and keep phones and tablets out of teens' bedrooms. Set a good example by following these rules yourself.
- Monitor your teen's accounts.Let your teen know that you will be checking their social media accounts regularly. You could aim to do this once a week or more often. Make sure you follow through.
- Explain what is wrong.Discourage your teen from gossip, gossip, bullying, or tarnishing someone's reputation - online or otherwise. Talk to your teen about what is appropriate and safe to share on social media.
- Encourage personal contact with friends.This is especially important for teens who are prone to social anxiety disorder.
- Talk about social media.Talk about your own social media habits. Ask your teen how he or she uses social media and how it makes him or her feel. Remind your teen that social media is full of unrealistic images.
If you think your teen may have signs or symptoms of anxiety or depression related to social media use, talk to your child's doctor.
Child health information and parenting tips delivered to your inbox.
Sign up to receive Mayo Clinic's trusted health content by email. Receive a bonus guide to managing your child's health just for signing up.Click here for an email preview.
In order to provide you with the most relevant and helpful information and to understand what information is useful, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this may include proprietary health information. If we combine this information with your Protected Health Information, we will treat all such information as Protected Health Information and will only use or disclose such information as described in our Privacy Practices Statement. You can unsubscribe from email communications at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the email.
February 26, 2022
- Viner RM, et al. Roles of cyberbullying, sleep and physical activity in mediating the impact of social media use on the mental health and well-being of young people in England: A secondary analysis of longitudinal data. The lancet. Health of Children and Adolescents. 2019; doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(19)30186-5.
- Riehm KE, et al. Associations between time spent using social media and internalizing and externalizing problems among US youth. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2325.
- Woods HC, et al. #Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence has been linked to poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Magazine for youth. 2016; doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.05.008.
- LeBourgeois MK, et al. Digital media and sleep in childhood and adolescence. paediatrics. 2017; doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758J.
- Hoge E et al. Digital media, anxiety and depression in children. paediatrics. 2017; doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758G.
- Communications and Media Council. Media use among children and adolescents of school age. paediatrics. 2016; doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2592. Brown A, et al. Beyond "switching off": How to counsel families on media use. AAP News. 2015; https://www.aappublications.org/content/36/10/54. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Kross E et al. Facebook usage predicts a decline in subjective well-being among young adults. Plus one. 2013; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841.
- Verduyn P et al. Passive Facebook use undermines affective well-being: Experimental and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Generally. 2015; doi:10.1037/xge0000057.
- Talking to children and young people about social media and sexting – tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Talking-to-Kids-and-Teens-About- Social-Media-and-Sexting.aspx. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- Youth, Social Media, and Technology 2018. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
- Nesi J, et al. Social media use for social comparison and feedback-seeking: gender and popularity moderate associations with depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2015; doi:10.1007/s10802-015-0020-0.
- Chou HT, et al. "They are happier and have better lives than me": The impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others' lives. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networks. 2012; doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0324.
- Bieber ED (review). Mayo Clinic. December 4, 2019.
For more information, see
products and services
- Distracted driving
- Piercings: How to avoid complications
- Talk to your teen about sex
- Substance Abuse in Teens
- teenage suicide