Spending Just Two Hours On Social Media Affects Teens' Mental Health

What toll does social media take on teen mental health?


When first waking up, some teens scroll through Twitter to catch up on anything they may have missed overnight. If out at a concert, of course they film a quick Snapchat video. Eating a delicious meal? That's obviously Instagram worthy. But spending so much time on social media sites can have some serious repercussions, according to a new study. Teens who spend more than two hours a day on sites like Twitter or Facebook are more likely to have poor mental health, which includes psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.

Researchers from Ottawa Public Health surveyed 750 students in 7th-12th grade about their use of social media and psychological well-being. One in four teens spent at least two hours on social media sites, and it was the frequent social media users who were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression and have unmet mental health needs.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, the study's lead author Dr. Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga said,

"It could be that teens with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone... The relationship between the use of social networking sites and mental health problems is complex. Simple use of social networking sites cannot fully explain by itself the occurrence of mental health problem."

Experts suggest that spending less time on social media sites isn't necessarily the solution. Instead, providing adequate mental health resources could be. A recent study found that while mental health care access is on the rise among teens, there is still work to be done in that field. With one in five teens experiencing some kind of mental illness, resources should be readily available. However, the stigma surrounding this topic sometimes makes teens feel like they can't reach out for help. As parents and teachers, being supportive and having open discussions can be a great step in the right direction.

For more about this topic, check out our "We Have Depression" story. Six teens shine a spotlight on depression, in an effort to reduce the stigma. Another relevant article? "Help! I Can't Put Down My Phone" which takes a look at teen tech addiction—and ways to combat it.