Social Media Impact Teen's Life?



Recently a teenager asked me for my comments on how social media impact teen's lives nowadays. I think this is a great question and many parents have similar concerns. I did some dig around psychological research on this topic, and want to post my answers here for us all to discuss.

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Q1. Do you feel like social media distracts teens from their daily or academic life? 

My Answer: From my clinical experience with teens, I noticed some distractions. For example, when something negative happens on social media, it normally happens fast and impacts a broader range of areas in teens' lives, which could occupy their minds and impact their attention while engaging in daily life events or academic requirements.


Q2. Are there any positive effects social media has on teens? 

My Answer: Yes, there are both positive and negative aspects of media use among teens, just like a coin has two sides. I just want to quote some research data here (from a Havard paper, Madden et al., 2013.):


-"In broad measures of online experience, teens are considerably more likely to report positive experiences (e.g., making friends and feeling closer to another person) than negative ones. For instance, 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves."

-"Teens don’t think of their Facebook use in terms of information sharing, friending or privacy: for them, what is most important about Facebook is how it is a major center of teenage social interactions, both with the positives of friendship and social support and the negatives of drama and social expectations."

-Teens may"create a good presentation of themselves online in order to maintain positive in-person relationships with adults." (e.g., post what they want others to think of them).

-"Among teen social media users, 57% said they had an experience online that made them feel good, compared with just 30% of teen internet users who do not use social media."

-"older teens are much more likely to report a positive experience of this kind; 58% of those ages 14-17 said this compared with 39% of those ages 12-13. Girls and boys are equally as likely to report feel-good experiences"

-"youth living in urban areas (44%) are less likely than those living in suburban (55%) and rural (61%) areas to say that they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves."


Q4. Do teens tend to use social media more often when they are depressed or anxious? 

My Answer: I don't think there are a clear conclusion on this topic. There are some research showed that when teens perceive low friendship quality in real life, their use of social media for communication purpose is related to lower level of depression and social anxiety, and the use of social media for non-communication purpose is related a higher level of depression and social anxiety (Selfhout et al., 2009). 


Q5. Does social media affect your emotions or behavior? 

My Answer: Social media use may contribute to some symptoms of depression and anxiety, and is associated with some risky or unsafe behaviors among teens.

For example, recently, researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” which is defined as "depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression." (Melville, 2010)

Other researchers emphasized the impact of multitasking: "Rapid task switching, also known as multitasking, may be one root cause of depression"(Rosen et al., 2012)

The same group of researchers also noted: "Multitasking preference was a strong predictor of two mood disorders and four of the six personality disorders." Moreover, "all three mood disorders were predicted by anxiety about not checking in with text messages and Facebook" (Rosen et al., 2013)

What do you think? Welcome to leave comments and discuss this topic.

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Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, M. (2013). Teens, social media, and privacy. Pew Research Center21, 2-86.

Selfhout, M. H., Branje, S. J., Delsing, M., ter Bogt, T. F., & Meeus, W. H. (2009). Different types of Internet use, depression, and social anxiety: The role of perceived friendship quality. Journal of adolescence32(4), 819-833.

Melville K. Facebook use associated with depression. Science A Go Go. February 3, 2010.

Rosen, L. D., Cheever, N. A., & Carrier, L. M. (2012). iDisorder: Understanding our obsession with technology and overcoming its hold on us. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rosen, L. D., Whaling, K., Rab, S., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Is Facebook creating “iDisorders”? The link between clinical symptoms of psychiatric disorders and technology use, attitudes and anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior29(3), 1243-1254.

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