Skip to Content

Report warns about the dangers of social media to student mental health

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- As students head back to class, a number of teaching and government organizations are expressing concern over how social media impacts the mental health of students.

The AFT partnered with the American Psychological Association, Fairplay, ParentsTogether and Design It For Us to put together the information.

In their report, "Likes vs. Learning," the partner researchers identify a list of potential impacts from social media on schools -- including a disrupted learning environment, increasing needs for resources to support mental health and larger mental supports staff.

It also wants schools to educate their students about the different aspects of social media in the classroom, create supporting policies for handling cell phone discipline and new policies focused on mobile phone/social media use.

Parents are encouraged by the report to spend time speaking with teachers and students about phone concerns.

The report advocates for schools to hire additional psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other medical experts to help meet the demand of mental and social health issues.

The report calls on social media organizations to prioritize, protect, and engage student safety, addiction and privacy.

Surgeon General's Advisory

This year, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public statement, calling attention to the public health issue and growing concern about social media's impact on young people.

They are calling on multiple groups to make changes. "This burden cannot simply fall to parents and children," the Advisory states. "We must engage in a multifaceted effort to maximize the benefits and reduce the risk of harm posed by social media, with actions taken by groups across the spectrum: policymakers, technology companies, researchers, families, and children and adolescents themselves.

In an advisory, the Surgeon General's researchers claimed that 95% of teens between 13 and 17 reported using a social media platform -- with over a third saying they use social media almost "constantly."

Some of the concerns listed in the Advisory include brain development, long term impacts to mental health, exposure to sensitive content and other concerns that can impact both mental image and wellness.

However, it is important to note, that the Surgeon General Advisory did mention some potential benefits. These include maintaining friendships from a distance, positive interactions and social support, and finding a sense of community -- especially for students of color.

According to research from the U.S. Surgeon General -- 95% of teens and 40% of children between 8 and 12 use social media. In an executive summary of research, the Department of Health & Human Services said "we do not yet have enough evidence to determine if social media use is sufficiently safe for them —especially during adolescence, a particularly vulnerable period of brain development."

The researchers went on to say that the lack of transparency of social media companies and a lack of access to data -- has raised concerns about how much impact social media has on young people. In scientific circles, there is a call for more media research.

The DHHS report mentions specifically that policymakers could "take steps to strengthen safety standards and limit access in ways that make social media safer for children of all ages, better protect children’s privacy, support digital and media literacy, and fund additional research."

The same report suggests parents create guidelines on social media use for children, and that tech companies should consider more transparent policies about the data and impact of their platforms on children.

Some potential concerns outlined by the DHHS include potential body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem -- especially for girls between 10 and 19.

According to federal data -- about 46% of adolescents said that social media makes them feel worse about their body. Another 40% said it didn't make them feel any worse or better. Only about 14% said they felt it boosted their self image.

More than two-thirds of those teens asked claimed they had been exposed to hate-based content online.

You can find more about the Surgeon General's Advisory on social media at this link.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

Article Topic Follows: Be Mindful

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Avery Martinez


KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content