Cindy Gullo, LCPC - Therapist & Counselor
The Blog

TikTok and Social Media on Teen’s Mental Health

Counselors and therapists worldwide are dealing with a new mental health phenomenon: Chronic social media usage among teens and the adverse mental health impacts. We look at this developing trend and determine how parents can help their teens overcome unhealthy social media relationships.

The teenage years have been eternally tough. But, with your mind still developing in high-pressure environments loaded with expectations and standards as you prepare to springboard into adulthood – the bar is already set very high.

Enter Social Media

Social media takes the average stress of your developmental years and sends it skywards. Whether teenagers know it or not, their 24/7, 365 days a year connection to their friends and the world is unprecedented.

No one’s mind, not only those of teens, was designed to be bombarded with an endless stream of information, images, and constant stimulation that seems to be without limit.

However, while the adult mind may be able to entertain social media without fully absorbing its adverse effects, the yet impressionable mind of teenagers may struggle a little more.

The results have been staggering. But before delving into the harmful impact of social media on teenagers, let’s first look at how teens and social media platforms go hand in hand.

The Immensity of Social Media

You probably don’t need me to tell you, but teenagers love social media. Usually, we'd delve into how many of a certain demographic partake in a potentially damaging activity. However, it’s safe to estimate a figure that nears 100% regarding teens and social media.

Instead, we’d do best to take a look at frequency. Perhaps it’ll be no surprise that almost half of US teenagers aged 13-17 are online “almost constantly,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

It’s a disorder almost unique to Gen Z – that of being “chronically online.” Some teenagers will even proudly self-qualify themselves under this category of “disconnectable teens.”

So, What’s That interesting?

Well, ordered by descending popularity, the following:

  • TikTok
  • Snapchat.
  • Instagram.
  • Youtube
  • Discord.
  • Facebook.

And the list goes on as the number of social media platforms and social media users grows.

It’s Not all Funny Cats and Memes

Social media can be a landmine field of insecurity-triggering content for teens, alongside causal or more targeted bullying that seems to permeate the teenage social media scene. In other words, being online can expose teens to cyberbullying, rumor spreading, and a world of false information that can prey on their impressionable minds and fears.

A Quick Run-down of Teenage Bullying Online:

The Pew Research Center’s 2018 survey of US teens found that one in six teens has experienced at least one of six forms of abusive behavior online:

  • Name-calling (42%)
  • Spreading of false rumors (32%)
  • Receiving unsolicited explicit images (25%)
  • Having their activities and whereabouts tracked by a stranger (21%)
  • Receiving physical threats (16%)
  • Having explicit images shared online without their consent (7%)

Social Media’s Negative Effects on Teen’s Mental Health

Social media exposes children to bullying and puts them at risk of developing body image issues and related conditions such as body dysmorphia. This is due to the photoshopped images that line most teens’ social media feeds. They’re also exposed to unrealistic views of other people’s lives, leaving them with a false picture of reality and a cynical outlook on their lifestyle. Looking at screens all day and well into the wee hours can also disrupt their sleep, leading to fatigue and overall low mood that results in poor mental health.

The Effect of Social Media on Teens is Getting Worse

20% of people with at least one social media account report needing to check them once every three hours to avoid the onset of anxious feelings. This phenomenon reaches beyond the “fear of missing out” or FOMO. It has even been given its name recently: social media anxiety disorder. Yes, that’s right, social media anxiety disorder is the new official clinical name for a social media-related mental health condition. So, if you were thinking social media’s effects were negligible or a fringe issue – the opposite is true.

Signs Your Teen has an Issue with Social Media.

You might be thinking this is a mammoth task. But, when teens use social media like they drink water or breathe, how do you spot abnormal online habits? They exist, and fortunately, you can see them.

What to look out for:

  • Interrupting conversations to look at their phone.
  • Spending over six hours on social media platforms every day.
  • Lying about or hiding the amount of time spent on social media if asked.
  • Withdrawing or isolating from family, friends, and acquaintances.
  • Failing in attempts or appearing unable to cut back on social media use.
  • Neglecting school, work, hobbies, and favorite activities.
  • Irritability or fighting if their phone is taken away.
  • Taking selfies and an abundance of pictures for Instagram. “If they didn’t post it, it didn’t happen.”

Suppose your teenager is exhibiting one or more of the above symptoms. In that case, it may be time to seek a therapist to help them overcome their social media addiction and gain a healthier outlook on life.

Further Signs your Daughter is Suffering from Mental Health Issues

If you notice your teen exhibiting any of the following symptoms or a decline in their mental health, it may be time to seek professional help.

Signs your teenager is suffering with their mental health:

  • Extreme Mood Swings.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Continuous low mood or sadness, as well as frequent tearfulness.
  • Poor personal hygiene.
  • Changes in eating patterns.
  • Declining grades.
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies.
  • Struggles sleeping.
  • Lack of energy or motivation.

How to Help Your Teen Cope With Social Media

The risks of social media usage may be related to the number of time teens spend online. According to the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, using social media for 30 minutes daily is recommended for better physical and mental health. The study also suggests that it is better to distribute your time between three apps to maintain engagement and not lose out. That considered, you should encourage your teen to put their phone or any electronic device away for a certain amount of time while banning electronic devices from the table or family settings. That said, sometimes the issue can be more significant than us; in that case …

Help and Support are Available

You're on the right track if you’re searching for a “therapist near me” after reading the above. Consulting a therapist or counselor can help ensure your teen gets support and help that’s the right fit for them. There are several ways professionals like myself can help your teen to confront and combat their social media addiction or mental health issues related to social media usage. Poor mental health related to social media is a natural and ever-growing issue that should not be ignored, nor should anyone be ashamed of suffering from its effects. What matters is that you and your teen get the help you deserve to overcome this modern-day phenomenon. If social media impact your teen daughter’s mental health, contact me. Together we can help her get back on track.