The debate of social media on mental health will likely never end, but what is not debatable is the fact we are facing a time when young people are struggling with depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and even self-harming — in rising numbers.
According to a new report by Common Sense Media, Teens and Mental Health: How Girls Really Feel About Social Media, nearly half (45%) of girls who use TikTok say they feel “addicted” to the platform or use it more than intended at least weekly.
Among girls with moderate to severe depressive symptoms, roughly seven in 10 who use Instagram (75%) and TikTok (69%) say they come across problematic suicide-related content at least monthly on these platforms.
The report surveyed more than 1,300 adolescent girls across the country to better understand how the most popular social media platforms and design features impact their lives today.
Among the report’s key findings, adolescent girls spend over two hours daily on TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat, and more than 90 minutes on Instagram and messaging apps. When asked about platform design features, the majority of girls believe that features like location sharing, public accounts, endless scrolling, and appearance filters have an effect on them, but they’re split on whether those effects are positive or negative.
Other notable findings are:
-Over one-third of girls surveyed (38%) report symptoms of depression, and among these girls, social media has an outsize impact—for better and for worse.
-The majority of girls who use Instagram (58%) and Snapchat (57%) say they’ve been contacted by a stranger on these platforms in ways that make them uncomfortable.
These experiences were less common, though still frequent, on other platforms, with nearly half of TikTok (46%) and messaging app (48%) users having been contacted by strangers on these platforms.
-Many girls struggle with body image and have had a mixed relationship with social media as it pertains to their self-worth. Almost a third of the girls surveyed on TikTok (31%), Instagram (32%), and Snapchat (28%) say they feel bad about their body at least weekly when using these platforms.
However, on a positive note, nearly twice as many said they felt good or accepting of their bodies weekly while using TikTok (60%), Instagram (57%), and Snapchat (59%).
Overall, this is a snapshot of what our kids are experiencing on social media and how it is impacting their mental health and wellness. There is no doubt this is the generation of screen-time, cell-phone addiction, gaming, and all things that have to do with our teens and their attraction to digital media.
Parents weren’t prepared for this — and for many, the train has left the station and it’s a struggle to bring it back in. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try by implementing our parental authority, after-all, it is still the parents paying for the technology (mobile devices).
Personally, I know how difficult this is — I speak with parents on a weekly basis, removing a phone is like starting an explosion in the home. I have talked to parents that have literally called their once angel of a child, “a terrorist” as they attempted to turn off the Wi-Fi and/or remove their cell-phone.
Until you have experienced a teenager that is completely and wholeheartedly addicted to their cell-phone (social media), it’s hard to explain that warzone that can be experienced in a family’s home.
I have spoken to experts that don’t understand this type of obsession, and believe that it’s all about digital education (which I believe in 100%), however, when things escalate to this level (which is happening regularly) that ship has sailed. It’s time for intervention, then we can talk about education. Mental health needs to be addressed — first and foremost.