Is Social Media a Risk Factor for Mental Health?

If it seems that every US adolescent is linked to social media, that is because it is (nearly) true. The authors of the current study cite a 2018 poll that demonstrated that 97% of adolescent respondents reported using at least 1 of the 7 most popular social media platforms, with 95% reporting owning or having access to a smartphone.

Although social media can make communication efficient and create a virtual community for individuals who traditionally have been marginalized, there are concerns about the potential for social media to negatively affect the mental health of adolescents. Social media use may negatively affect sleep and expose adolescents to bullying. It may also expose adolescents to idealized social scenarios and body images, which in turn creates anxiety. One-quarter of adolescents believe that social media has a mostly negative influence.

Rates of depression and suicidality have increased among US adolescents during the last 2 decades. The current study assesses how social media use affects internalizing (ie, depression, anxiety) and externalizing (ie, bullying, inattention) symptoms among adolescents.

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