The dangers of social media for the mental health of teens and children.
Social media is consistently a topic of controversy. There are lingering issues with multiple online social platforms, but not enough data to determine if social media damages mental health. Recently controversial documents regarding the impact of social media on teens' and children's mental health are under review.
Meta, formally known as Facebook, had a whistleblower share details from a report that was kept from the media. Allegedly, the documents show a correlation between body image and Instagram. Now, researchers are demanding transparency from Meta and suggesting that the Facebook model was intentionally withholding that detail.
Let's unpack this hot topic and dissect it into 5 elements: Addiction to social media, bullying and harassment, the wonder world of face filters, online predators, recent examples that seem to suggest the social media platforms are harming youth.
Addiction to social media
There is a lingering fear among parents and professionals that social media is addictive. Teens spend hours scrolling through their phones on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. One article recently reported the personal experiences of families whose teens suffer from depression and anxiety if they do not have access to their phone. Social media has become the only means for people to connect.
Bullying and harassment
It is not unknown that online bullying is a problem, especially on social media platforms. Keyboard warriors that have no desire to confront people face to face lash out at anonymous victims on the web. Cyberbullying can be spam messages, harmful content, negative comments on social media posts, or sharing personal information online with the intent of inciting harassment for a person on the platform.
The wonderful world of face filters
The other lingering question is the impact of social posts that portray a fake body image. Filters and face tune are used to make people look like society's ideal beauty. Skinny waist, symmetry of your face, and even the complexion of your skin are faked online. It creates an inaccurate goal for teens to work toward that can lead to depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia.
Another dangerous part of social media is predators that use it to target victims online. Scammers look for vulnerable people to take advantage. They may try to extort money, personal information or explicit photos of teens and other vulnerable populations.
Recent examples of social media harm to mental health
CNN spoke with parents that have experienced terrible situations with their teens due to social media. Following a period of time without access to social media one teen went into a mental health crisis. Other reports from parents included eating disorders and emotional distress from the images the teens interact with online.
It is becoming apparent that a conversation about the dangers of social media needs to be addressed. The mental health epidemic is worsening. Maintaining a happy and functional mental health status depends upon the information you consume. When social media platforms are full of, sometimes hidden, dangers it can be impossible to know the long-term impact.
18.1% of Americans experience an anxiety disorder. Nearly 50% of children age 8–15 did not receive treatment for their mental health issues — National Alliance on Mental Illness
Think about how 50% of the children and teens had no help for their mental Illness and are active on social media. Regulation of social media needs further exploration to make online a safer place for everyone. The parents are the first line of defense for teens and the children themselves need to be taught how to navigate online safely. The social media platform creators can only do so much and in the end they are a corporation. Money makes the world turn and that does not exclude social media.