socila media ADHD

Does social media have an effect on teenagers? The answer to this question is a bit complicated.

These days, alarming headlines and research findings regarding social media’s effects on teenagers often spark concern among caregivers and professionals alike. According to a recent study, teenagers who reported using social media for more than three hours a day may be more vulnerable to mental health issues than those who did not use it at all. Instagram’s internal study revealed that teen girls’ mental health deteriorates when using the platform. And that platform is just one of many that have been the receiving end of legal actions for alleged harm to teenagers.

But that’s not the whole tale. While some research has linked social media use to detrimental effects on mental health, other studies have found no correlations at all, or even links that are beneficial, such as stronger social ties and a greater feeling of community, particularly for underrepresented groups. In actuality, a causal relationship between social media use and poor mental health outcomes has not been demonstrated by studies in general.

It is virtually impossible to escape social media, digital media, and other technologies. The truth of the matter is that they are integral to our lives.

In fact, if we are to be honest to ourselves, we sometimes wonder how people used to serve in the age before the internet.

That said, how should parents and teens handle this? From our research over the past 15 years, we have found that the quality of engagement with these technologies is far more significant than the quantity. In our assessment, individual personalities also play a crucial role.

Moreover, parents can no longer play the middle ground. They have a critical influence in guiding their teens’ interactions with social media and shaping the outcomes of their online experiences.

Insights Into Teen Social Media Usage Based on A Pew Research Center Survey

  • 95% of American teens own a smartphone.
  • The majority of teens are active on social media, with 35% stating that they use one of the top online platforms—YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook—almost constantly.
  • 55% of teens feel that the time they spend on social media is appropriate and should not be a cause for concern.

Granted, the pandemic altered social technology habits among adolescents, with teens reporting increased time spent checking social media compared to pre-pandemic levels.

socila media ADHD

Not Every Social Media User Has The Same Experiences

Let’s be honest to ourselves. It goes without saying that individual circumstances, including pre-existing mental health conditions, can effectively shape the impact of social media on youth. Put in another way, what we are saying is that researchers are still unraveling the complex relationship between mental health and social media use. The results are not yet conclusive.

For instance, let’s take into consideration the intersection of teens, social media, and body image. We live in an era where perception is everything. We want to not only feel good about our image but also to be perceived to be looking good. Therein lies the problem. Social media can also make us feel depressed.

With all the glitz and glamor on social media and a life of make believe, approximately 20% of teens feel negatively about their body image after engaging with social media. This, not surprisingly, is more prevalent in teenage girls than boys. Teenage girls are notably more susceptible to experiencing dissatisfaction related to body image on social platforms compared to boys.

As if that is not worse enough, those who feel dissatisfied with their body image due to social media are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression, online social anxiety, difficulties in making new connections, and a preference for spending free time alone.

They become secluded and withdraw from others. That said, this study, conducted in a cross-sectional manner, is not conclusive. It does not definitively establish whether pre-existing body image concerns were influenced by social media use or if social media use led to these issues.

Individuals who are neurodivergent, particularly those who struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-related focus and self-regulation issues, may find it more difficult to control their emotions and turn off screens.

This could help to explain why some research indicates a correlation between screen time and digital media use and symptoms of ADHD.

For example, some people with ADHD may use gaming as a coping mechanism for troubling ideas. Furthermore, screen usage may either impact or be influenced by the sleep difficulties linked to ADHD.

A Lot Of Teens Say They Mostly Interact Positively Online

The majority of teenagers claim that social media helps them stay more in touch with their friends’ lives and emotions, and they also report feeling good about using it.

On the other hand, approximately 25% of teenagers claim that social networking either slightly or significantly worsens how they feel about their own life lending credence to the saying “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Youth Experience Social Pressures Online

It’s an open secret that today’s youth often manage their friendships via social media hence navigating a complex web of unwritten rules and expectations. Teens, in there droves, feel compelled to engage with friends’ posts through “likes,” comments, and other interactions, a pressure that apps exploit to keep users engaged. The more the likes, the higher the feel good effect.

An example is Snapchat’s Snapstreaks, which counts consecutive days users exchange snaps, fostering a sense of obligation to maintain the streak.

You will agree with me that personal networks on social media can become extensive, sometimes including acquaintances or even strangers (for many tweens and teens, declining a friend request or unfollowing someone is often out of the question). As a result, the larger the network, the more time users dedicate to fulfilling social duties and curating their profiles.

This increased time on social media not only raises the likelihood of encountering ads but also exposes users to potentially harmful content.

Teenagers Are Constantly Comparing Themselves to Others

I mean, social comparison is not an isolated habit, right? Even adults are guilty as charged. We must admit that social comparison is a very natural part of adolescent development that occurs both offline and online.

As teens go about browsing their social media feeds, they’re essentially exploring their identities in relation to what they see and inadvertently questioning whether they measure up in terms of intelligence, attractiveness, height, humor, and more.

Many teens, and adults are guilty as well, engage in ‘lurking.’ This is the silent observation of posts without actively interacting (such as liking or commenting). This passive comparison behavior is what leads to social anxiety, envy, and diminished self-esteem.

That said, it’s not all gloom. Indeed, some level of comparison on social media can also facilitate productive and positive connections between teens, helping them to learn about others as well as relate to them.