As understanding of mental illness such as depression increases so does the imposing of social media into our lives. It’s so commonplace that learning someone doesn’t have Facebook or Instagram can raise eyebrows. However, there’s reason to believe social media has negative effects on our minds, particularly those that are developing.

For children and teens, social media usage can give them a warped perception of the world around them. It can create a misguided idea of how they should be, based purely on comparisons. The more teens and children use social media, the more their happiness might be at risk.

Teen happiness and childs happiness is affected by social media, because it tends to make the lives of others seem all the more appealing. Just using social media for an hour a day has been shown to decrease overall life satisfaction by 14 percent. Why? It’s likely due to how teens compare themselves to others. They see their friends and their peers seemingly having fun or succeeding in life. They start to feel bad about themselves and discount their own accomplishments because they know all the work that went in.

While teens comparing themselves negatively to their peers is nothing new, social media causes them to really double down on their bad feelings. They can scroll through a newsfeed in less than a minute and be greeted with a dozen examples of why they’re not up to par. In previous times, teens were warned against comparing themselves to those in the media, such as supermodels, athletes, and movie stars. Now, however, we have to warn them about not comparing themselves to their peers.

“Social” is a key word in social media, but it’s not a very good representation of how social interactions should work. The computer and phone screens that divide social media users can create a strange idea of what it means to have a positive social relationship. Cues like body language and facial expression can be lost.

While interacting with others in real life can help improve someone’s mood, particularly if teens are discussing personal problems, the intimacy of real-life conversation can help a great deal. However, social media can have a strange effect of making teens feel like they’re speaking with someone but not to the extent they want to. Sometimes, it’s the best option, like when the other person is a friend who lives far away. Limiting social interactions to social media can be greatly dangerous, though.

The teenage years are when self-esteem is particularly fragile. Teens want to be accepted by their peers. If they don’t believe they’re living up to the image depicted by their friends and classmates on social media, they can feel much worse as a result. The ironic thing about this is that the people who they’re comparing themselves are also comparing themselves to each other.

Even a teen with a seemingly perfect life on social media could be having a much rougher time offline. They could be posting pictures of their report card with all A’s, but that could come at the cost of studying so hard they start to cry. They could also have smiling photos of them with a significant other, but they could be going through significant relationship problems. Part of the appeal of social media is that it allows you to tell your preferred version of the story about your life. Unfortunately, this creates a distortion not only for yourself but also for those around you.

If your teen or child is suffering from a low mood, it could be brought on by social media. There are treatment options available to help them. At our teen-only treatment facility, Centered Health, we specialize in mental and behavioral health treatment to give your teen the best tools available to succeed. We can help them get to the bottom of how social media affects their mood and succeed later in life.

When social media first became popularized, we never considered the long-term ramifications it could have. While it might seem innocuous to just scroll through a website, over time, it can really add up to some problems. Make sure that you are aware of your teen’s social media usage and be able to help them out if they’re feeling low as a result.