Social Media Addiction: When is my Teen Online Too Much?

With the increasing popularity of social media, teens can unfortunately become addicted to social networking websites. Teens who use social media excessively are at the highest risk of becoming addicted to it. According to a 2016 study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, 4.1 percent of boys and 3.6 percent of girls who are intense social media users display Internet addiction. Among casual social media users, 1.7 percent of boys and virtually no girls are addicted, according to study results. For purposes of the study, casual users were adolescents who stated they sometimes used social media, whereas intense users reported using it very often.

Consequences and Symptoms of Social Media Addiction in Teens

Teens who use social media very often could become addicted, and once they meet criteria for Internet addiction, they may experience certain consequences and symptoms. According to the findings of the study in Computers in Human Behavior, adolescents who meet criteria for Internet addiction tend to experience higher levels of psychosocial distress. Study results also showed that girls who used social media more often had a tendency to display a preoccupation with social media as well as a loss of control, whereas boys experienced withdrawal, preoccupation, and a loss of interest in other activities with increased social media use.1

Specific Mental Health Consequences of Social Media Addiction

Beyond the common symptoms and general psychosocial distress associated with social media addiction, teens who use social media excessively are at risk for a variety of mental health problems. In a 2016 study of nearly 500 adolescents, researchers from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom found that those who used social media more often were more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Using social media at night was specifically linked to sleep disturbances.2

How Much Social Media is Too Much?

With research showing that social media use is linked to addiction and mental health consequences for teens, parents are likely concerned that their own children are engaging in too much social media use. Fortunately, the research seems to provide guidelines for how much social media use is too much. A study in a 2015 edition of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that teens who used social media for more than two hours per day were at increased risk for psychological problems, poor mental health, and suicide ideation.3

To avoid negative mental health outcomes and addiction, teens’ social media use should be limited to no more than two hours per day. Parents should monitor their teens for signs of addiction, such as preoccupation, social withdrawal, or loss of interest in other activities, and intervene, with professional consultation as necessary, to address social media addiction.


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