Is Social Media Ruining My Child’s Mental Health?
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Is Social Media Ruining My Child’s Mental Health?

With the widespread use of digital connectivity, social media has ingrained itself into our everyday lives. Its impact is apparent in everything from sharing life experiences with friends to fostering relationships. But as parents, we frequently question what effect social media is having on our kids’ mental health.


Is their brain growth being harmed by those incessant scrolling sessions? Does the pursuit of likes have an impact on their psychological well-being? Let’s examine the different facets and investigate if social media is beneficial or detrimental to our kids’ mental health.



Table Of Contents

Impact On Brain Development

Impact On Emotional Development

Impact On Social Development

Impact On Spiritual Development

The After Thought




Impact On Brain Development


An infant’s developing brain is a wonder, continuously molding itself via interactions and experiences. Social media has opened up young minds to a plethora of stimuli and information. A 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics survey found that 76% of teenagers use social media on a daily basis (Brundidge & Sigman, 2021). The dopamine surge (Lewis et al., 2021) that comes with regular notifications and pings can have a big effect on the way the brain processes rewards.


Investigations have indicated that using social media excessively can shorten attention spans and make it harder to concentrate on tasks. The constantly changing content on social media sites like Instagram and TikTok may be a factor in the inability of children to focus for extended periods of time, which could have an impact on their cognitive development and academic achievement (Jiang, 2018; Madigan et al., 2019).


Teenagers who spent more than three hours a day on social media were more likely to experience severe depressive symptoms, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics (Boers et al., 2019). Additionally, because social media is addictive, it may disrupt sleep habits, which are essential for the healthy development of the brain in children and teenagers (Alonzo et al., 2021; Paruthi et al., n.d.). Lack of sleep has been connected to a number of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety (Waters et al., 2018).




Impact On Emotional Development


Adolescence is an emotionally taxing time, let alone the added strains of social media. A child’s self-esteem may become strongly linked to receiving approval from others online due to their desire for reinforcement through likes and comments.


One negative aspect of social media that can have a significant impact on a child’s emotional health is cyberbullying. Because internet platforms offer anonymity, people may feel more comfortable doing cruel acts, which can leave the victim feeling alone, anxious, or depressed. According to a Pew Research Center survey from 2022, 46 percent of teenagers have encountered cyberbullying in some capacity (Vogels, 2022).


Furthermore, young people may develop a sense of inferiority as a result of the meticulously groomed lives that are displayed on social networking platforms, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Feelings of inferiority can be exacerbated by continuously comparing one’s life to that of others, who seem to have it all. The Royal Society for Public Health has declared Instagram to be the most harmful social media platform for the mental well-being of young people in one of their reports (Royal Society of Public Health, 2017).


Children and Social Media

Photo by Ron Lach


Impact On Social Development


Inversely affecting the social growth of children, social media might do the opposite of what its name implies. Although it makes virtual connections easier, screen-mediated interactions might not transfer into the requisite social skills in person. In 2021, Common Sense Media revealed that 81% of teenagers use social media, and 45% of them acknowledged that the drama on these sites overwhelms them (Common Sense Media, 2021).


Spending too much time on social media might prevent people from interacting with their peers in person, which can impede the development of critical social skills. For a child to develop socially overall, they must be able to recognize nonverbal clues, show empathy, and negotiate difficult social circumstances.


According to a research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there is a strong correlation between use of social media and a higher likelihood of feeling socially isolated in teenagers (Primack et al., 2017). A child may also experience feelings of exclusion or loneliness due to peer pressure and continual comparison on social media. The fear of missing out (FOMO) can have serious social repercussions, harming a child’s sense of identity and self-worth.





Impact On Spiritual Development


An essential component of a child’s overall well-being is their spiritual development, which is frequently disregarded in conversations about social media and mental health. Social media’s ceaseless barrage of content can be a hindrance to reflection and an understanding of one’s beliefs and views. Children may have an irrational sense of self and purpose due to the emphasis on materialism and external validation on social media.


The unending quest for likes and followers may eclipse the emergence of deep relationships and a feeling of belonging. According to a 2022 survey of The Survey Center on American Life, 34% of Generation Z describes themselves as agnostic (9%), atheist (9%), or not connected to any religion (Cox, 2022). According to research from the Pew Research Center, 54% of teenagers feel somewhat or very linked to a church or religious community (Pew Research Center, 2020).


Social media may have a negative impact on children’s spiritual development, but it can be balanced by encouraging them to disconnect from technology and partake in spiritually uplifting activities like spending time in nature, creating art or meditation.





The After Thought


Social media has definitely transformed communication and connectivity, but we also need to pay attention to how it’s affecting our children’s mental health. The data presents an impressive image of the difficulties that our children encounter in the digital age.


It’s critical for parents to strike a balance between giving their children access to social media and encouraging them to lead healthy offline lives. To mitigate potential negative impacts, it is imperative to engage in open conversation, educate them about appropriate online activity and support holistic development activities. Depending on how severely social media has impacted a child’s life, a parent may choose to discuss the possibility of getting a professional involved.


All things considered, social media has the potential to be a double-edged sword that either helps or hurts our children’s psychological well-being. We have a responsibility to help them navigate the digital world as parents and caregivers and make sure that their digital interactions enhance their general well-being.











Alonzo, R., Hussain, J., Stranges, S., & Anderson, K. K. (2021). Interplay between social media use, sleep quality, and mental health in youth: A systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 56, 101414.


Boers, E., Afzali, M. H., Newton, N., & Conrod, P. (2019). Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(9), 853–859.


Brundidge, W. H., Jr., & Sigman, G. S. (2021). Frequency Of Social Media Use And Its Impact On Adolescent Mental Well-Being At An Urban High School. Pediatrics, 147(3_MeetingAbstract), 218–220.


Common Sense Media. (2021). The Common Sense Census: Media Use By Tweens and Teens.


Cox, D. A. (2022, March 24). Generation Z and the Future of Faith in America. The Survey Center on American Life.


Jiang, J. (2018, August 22). How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.


Lewis, R. G., Florio, E., Punzo, D., & Borrelli, E. (2021). The Brain’s Reward System in Health and Disease. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 1344, 57–69.


Madigan, S., Browne, D., Racine, N., Mori, C., & Tough, S. (2019). Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(3), 244–250.


Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D, ’Ambrosio Carolyn, Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., Malow, B. A., Maski, K., Nichols, C., Quan, S. F., Rosen, C. L., Troester, M. M., & Wise, M. S. (n.d.). Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(06), 785–786.


Pew Research Center. (2020, September 10). U.S. Teens Take After Their Parents Religiously, Attend Services Together and Enjoy Family Rituals. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.


Primack, B., Shensa, A., Sidani, J., Whaite, E., Lin, L., Rosen, D., Colditz, J., Radovic, A., & Miller, E. (2017). Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53.


Royal Society of Public Health. (2017). Status of Mind: Social media and young people’s mental health.


Vogels, E. A. (2022, December 15). Teens and Cyberbullying 2022. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.


Waters, F., Chiu, V., Atkinson, A., & Blom, J. D. (2018). Severe Sleep Deprivation Causes Hallucinations and a Gradual Progression Toward Psychosis With Increasing Time Awake. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9.
















Written By: Dr. Wasif MD

Edited by: Madison Vargas, BS

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT

Published : 02/19/2024


Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Written and reviewed by

Madison Vargas

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