Wed. May 29th, 2024





Key points:

  • Youth often seek support online when struggling. Communities exist online that offer positive resources and there are others which can be dangerous.
  • Neurodivergent youth may find it easier to connect with others online.

The relationship between youth mental health and technology is complicated. Today’s adolescents are immersed in technology, and this digital world is all they have known. Social media and other online platforms provide spaces for connection and learning, but they also come with risks. Here are five key things for parents and mental health professionals to know about youth and technology:

1. Online friends are often real friends. Research shows that virtual friendships can be just as valuable to adolescents as offline friendships. Teens often seek support online, even discussing sensitive topics like suicide and eating disorders. Online friendships can play a protective role for youth struggling with mental health issues.

2. Many youth turn to the internet for support. Online spaces provide anonymity and can encourage individuals to share more than they normally would. While this can be beneficial for youth struggling with mental health difficulties, it can also expose them to dangerous content and intense conversations beyond their resources.

3. Neurodivergent adolescents may find it easier to make friends virtually. Autistic youth, in particular, may benefit from the text-based communication outlets online, as it accommodates their social challenges. Online friendships can offer a sense of acceptance that may be lacking in their offline community.

4. Social media should be taken in moderation. Excessive screen time has been linked to lower self-esteem and worsened mental health in youth. While social media can be a valuable tool for connection, it should not replace offline friendships and activities.

5. Sleep quality is important. Heavy social media use can disrupt sleep, particularly if youth are using their devices late into the night. Blue light emitted by screens can affect sleep negatively, and poor sleep has been linked to worsened mental health outcomes in teens.

Parents and mental health professionals should engage in open conversations about the potential risks and benefits of technology. Setting boundaries on social media use, such as limiting screen time at night, can help protect youth from the negative effects of excessive technology use.


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