Social Media and Teen Mental Health

teenaged depression

Is social media impacting your teen’s self-esteem? A new study published by the American Psychological Association found that teens who reduced their social media use by 50% for just a few weeks experienced significant improvement in how they felt about their appearance compared with peers who maintained consistent levels of social media use.

With the flood of edited and filtered photos from celebrities, influencers and even their peers, social media creates an environment of perfection in which it is far too easy to harshly compare themselves to others.

It is not just self-image, either. Research has also shown that young adults who use social media are three times as likely to suffer from depression. Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, they may be more vulnerable to increased exposure to bullying, rumors, peer pressure and unrealistic views of others’ lives, all of which can contribute to feelings of depression.

Social media can also disrupt their sleep, and poor sleep quality can cause higher levels of anxiety and depression.

“Depression and sleep are closely connected, and it can cause a vicious cycle,” said Arianne Iorfido, MA, LPC, Director of Clinical Operations, Behavioral Health Services for Penn Highlands Healthcare. “Poor sleep can contribute to depression, and having depression can make a person more likely to experience sleep problems.

Social media is not all bad, however, and completely banning social media is not only unrealistic, but also not an effective solution.

“Socializing is critical in a child’s development, and social media can be a healthy part of that,” said Mrs. Iorfido. “Social media lets teens build social networks, get support from their peers and express themselves.”

The key is developing a healthy relationship with social media, and parents can take steps to encourage the responsible use of social media while limiting some of its negative effects.

Set limits. If social media is interfering with activities, sleep, meals, homework or seeing friends in person, you may need to set some limits.

Minimize social media use at bedtime. Keeping phones and tablets out of the bedroom at bedtime can help your child sleep better and avoid the endless scrolling that keeps both children and adults up late.

Monitor their accounts. You do not have to secretly keep tabs on what your child does. In fact, letting them know that you will be checking in can improve how you communicate with each other.

Penn Highlands offers specialized inpatient and outpatient pediatric and adolescent behavioral health care. Services include psychiatric evaluation, medication management, psychological assessment and individual and family psychotherapy for a variety of conditions, including stress and depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, autism, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and developmental problems. Learn more at