Social Media and Your Teen

Author:  Jenna DeRosa  

verified by Psychology Today

The Emotional Impact Social Media

If you ask any teenager how social media impacts their life, most will tell you, positively. It is the primary access to their social world.  It allows them to feel more connected to their friends. In fact, 91% of young people use the internet for social networking.

For all the positives teens list, many question the additional pressures of keeping up with the 24/7 onslaught of social messages.  Studies have been conducted on the impact of social media platforms on teen’s health and wellbeing.

Many of these studies find that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as many other apps, all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness.  Vulnerable teens have more drastic effects from social media. They are more likely to say social media makes them lonely or depressed.

How do I Help my Teen Navigate Social Media?

  • Establish specific rules with teenager early and often

  • Set Boundaries

    • Determine how much time is allowed on devices
    • Determine which Apps are acceptable and which will be off limits
    • Turn in devices at bedtime
    • Devices to be put away during family time
    • Parent will randomly monitor the device
  • Age appropriate limits

    • Time on devices
    • Apps allowed may increase by age, maturity, trust and level of responsibility
  • Provide a safe outlet for open communication

    • Talk about current events in social media
    • Ask questions about what they see on social media
    • Ask what emotions they have about social media.
    • Help them problem solve dilemma’s that are presented through social media

What Red Flags Should I look for?

Common areas that social media can negatively impact a teen include, self esteem, body image, emotions, bullying, and relationships.  Regardless, the symptoms you are likely to see can be concerning and at times down right scary!

If you are noticing a significant increase in the these, have a conversation with your teen about cutting down on their tech time.  You may also want to speak to a counselor for assistance in developing coping skills to help navigate the impact.

  • Loneliness
  • Fatigue or excess sleep
  • Isolation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Ruminating thoughts
  • Agitation and crying
  • Hyperventilation
  • Stress
  • Substance use

The following books offer great information on helping your teen participate in social media wisely:

The Teens Guide to Social Media…and Mobile Devices: 21 tips to Wise Posting in an Insecure World

It’s Complicated:  The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Sex, Likes and Social Media:  Talking to our teens in the digital age

Social Media Wellness:  Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World

Depression screening tool based on the PHQ-9

This is a screening measure to help you determine whether you might have Depression that needs professional attention. This screening tool is not designed to make a diagnosis of Depression, but to be shared with your primary care physician or mental health professional to inform further conversations about diagnosis and treatment.  This assessment is entirely confidential and the results will be emailed to you.

Instructions: Below is a list of questions that relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with depression. Please read each question carefully and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.


Little interest or pleasure in doing thing.


Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.


Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much.


Feeling tired or having little energy.


Poor appetite or overeating.


Feeling bad about yourself.


Trouble concentrating on things.


Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite, being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving a lot more than usual.


Thoughts that you are better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way.

This screen is not meant to be a diagnosis. Having symptoms of depression is different than having depression. In addition, symptoms of depression can be caused by other mental health conditions, as well as physical health problems.  A trained professional, such as a doctor or a mental health provider, can make this determination and make treatment recommendations. 

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others seek immediate help. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Life Line at 800-273-8255.

Developed by Drs. Robert L Spritzer, Janet B.W. Williams, Kurt Kroenke and colleagues.  Available in the public domain.

Email required to send results.