Effects of Social Media on Teen Mental Health

Valentina Ayala

Social media has affected teens’ mental health for years, but it affects them now more than ever. In March of 2020, Utah entered lockdown. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traveling restrictions were set, people quarantined in their homes, and much of life moved online. This worsened many Utahns’ mental health. A February 10 survey by KFF found that 36% of adults have found it more difficult to get rest or set a consistent sleep or eating schedule during the pandemic, 32% report more alcohol consumption or substance use, and many people’s chronic illnesses have worsened. During the year 2020, 56% of 18 to 24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, the likelihood of young adult substance abuse rose from 13% to 25%, and the presence of suicidal thoughts in teen and young adult populations rose from 11% to 26%. The pandemic has also made it harder for communities of color. Non-Hispanic Black adults (48%) and Hispanic or Latino adults (46%) were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression. Historically, these communities have found it harder to access mental health resources.

After the onset of the pandemic, young adults have found it increasingly harder to perform daily tasks. As schools shut down or transitioned online, many parents and their children had their daily routines changed. Now, many parents are more worried about their child’s well-being than their education.  Households with children under the age of 18, compared to households without children under 18, are more likely to report mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

I interviewed one of my friends about this issue, asking them how has social media has affected their mental health. They replied that “social media has always affected me in way, [but] this year [because of COVID-19] I started to realize how bad it was getting.”

Like this student, a lot of people have recently recognized a decline in their mental health. This “new normal” has impacted many students returning to school. Some families have dealt with income loss, food shortages, or the loss of loved ones. These can weigh on students, affecting their learning and time in school.

So, do you think social media affects people’s mental health? If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health please call: 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to: 741741