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The relationship between social media use and youth mental health

New research examined whether social media use is associated with negative mental health outcomes in youths.

Over the past decade or so, the use of smartphones and social media has become increasingly common.

The prevalence of smartphones makes social media platforms more easily accessible, from anywhere, at any time.

Social media has been associated with cyberbullying, decreased self-esteem, and the promotion of content that normalizes self-harm and suicide.

Children and adolescents are especially susceptible to these negative consequences as they are trying to figure out who they are.

Cell phone use can take up a lot of time as well, as nearly 54 percent of teenagers in a United States poll admitted to spending too much time on their cell phones.

The percentage of teenagers experiencing mental distress increased from 24 percent to 39 percent between 2013 and 2017, and researchers wanted to know if increased social media and cell phone usage played a role in this trend.

To examine the impacts of social media and cell phone usage on youth mental health, a review was led by The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The analysis looked over various studies regarding the effects of social media on youths’ self-esteem, as well as potential strategies to help them reduce their use.

The analysis found that smartphone and social media use was associated with increased rates of mental distress and self-harming behavior.

Moreover, social media could lead to decreased self-esteem in youth due to cyber bullying or comparison with others.

Finally, heavy cell phone use was associated with sleep deprivation and weaker academic performance.

Fortunately, the researchers included several suggestions for teenagers to manage their use.

Parents can have conversations with their teenagers about healthy cell phone use and how to avoid negative social media interactions.

Schools can also talk with students about appropriate cell phone use.

The results of this study suggest that the increasing use of social media and smartphones among young people could potentially have negative outcomes on mental health.

More research is needed to determine the strength of this relationship long-term.

In the meantime, there are strategies that parents and schools can implement to help reduce negative consequences.

Written by Avery Bisbee


Abi-Jaoude, E., Naylor, K. T., & Pignatiello, A. (2020). Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health. Canadian Medical Association Journal192(6), 136–141. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190434

Review of evidence finds excessive smartphone, social media use may be linked to youth mental health. (2020, February 10). Retrieved February 10, 2020, from

Image by Анастасия Гепп from Pixabay



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