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Social Media and the Teenage Brain

A recent report from Common Sense Media showed that 75% of American teenagers have social media profiles and that 51% of teens visit social networking sites on a daily basis, multiple times a day. It is difficult to ignore the influence social media is having on older children and teenagers. For teens, social media is another source of social competition and comparison, and bullying.

A 2016 UCLA study found that certain regions of a teenager's brain became activated by "likes" or other favorable responses on social media, sometimes causing teens to want to use social media even more, almost to addictive levels. The addictive nature of social media which leads to it's overuse, may have a significant impact on the mental health of teenagers. Multiple studies have shown that using social media too much may lead to the following:

  • Depression: Researchers have found that social media can intensify symptoms of depression, including a decrease in social activity and an increase in loneliness.

  • Low self-esteem: Prolonged social media use may lead to even lower self-esteem.

  • Anxiety: Studies have shown that the larger a teen's social online circle, the more anxiety they feel about keeping up with everything online.

  • Sleep deprivation: Sleep loss that comes from spending too much time on social media leads to moodiness, depression, anxiety, ADD, and overreating.

While social media is here to stay, it is important for parents to establish boundaries and rules with their older children and teens early so dependency is avoided. In my practice, we often work with families who are experiencing difficulties setting limits when it comes to social media use, but who are also experiencing the negative results of their child or teen spending too much time online.


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