The U.S. surgeon general—along with the American Academy of Pediatrics—has declared a youth mental health crisis in this country. And considering how much research has shown that technology—specifically social media—plays a role in how kids feel about themselves and the world, it's easy enough to point fingers at the obvious culprit.
And while, yes, social media companies should be held accountable for deploying knowingly harmful tactics, the industry as a whole is more complicated. And when you listen to teens—as we've done extensively at Common Sense Media, where I work as the head of research—you can quickly see how complex their relationship with tech and social media can be.
Sometimes social media helps connect them to communities and resources. Sometimes it shows them hateful content or encourages conflict. But what are the next steps in dealing with this crisis? The first one sounds easy but requires patience: Listen to what kids are telling us about how tech makes them feel. From there, we can all work together and make changes so social media becomes a place where mental health is supported and cultivated for all people.
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AL: “This collection of tips and research shares exactly how parents can support teens in their online lives.”
AL: “Researcher Dawn Bounds shares her tips on how to help teen girls make the most of social media and support their mental health.”
AL: “Here is Common Sense Media’s comprehensive guide for parents and caregivers to help their teen girls use social media in a safe and healthy way.”
AL: “In their most recent book, Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing and Adults Are Missing, Harvard researchers Carrie James and Emily Weinstein share what teens told them about the pressure to maintain multiple relationships in an online world.”
AL: “This summary of key research highlights the most important ways that social media and technology are impacting kids’ physical and mental development.”
AL: “This article is part of a series of interviews with teens who deal with anxiety, depression, and self-harm exacerbated by the internet and social media.”
AL: “This regularly updated collection of research, tips, and Q&As brings expertise from the country’s most trusted pediatricians and mental health experts to help parents and educators support their kids’ mental health.”
Amanda Lenhart is the head of research at Common Sense Media. She is a nationally recognized expert on how technology affects teens, children, and families. Check out all of Common Sense's current research.