American teenagers are heavy users of social media, which is often associated with a decline in their mental health, but a report on social media’s impact says the connection is more complicated. Douglas Gentile, a psychologist at Iowa State University, contributed to the report from the National Academy of Sciences. Gentile says social media use is often linked with depression among teens, but it may not be the cause. One thing Gentile says social media does directly impact is sleep.
Gentile believes media literacy should be part of K-12 education so students understand how companies target content toward users and how things like online harassment can harm others.
Gentile says social media’s effects on teens are not all bad, saying sites like Instagram or TikTok can help adolescents in marginalized groups form positive relationships online. Gentile says parents can help protect their kids from the potential harms of social media. He recommends keeping phones and screens out of bedrooms, and putting limits on both the apps they use and the amount of time they spend online.