Social Media and Depression: What Parents Need to Know

The Bark Team | October 16, 2018 | Child & Teen Depression

For years, scientists and researchers have been telling us that there’s a link between social media and depression. Studies aren’t exactly sure why or how, but there’s definitely a connection. Some attribute it to FOMO (fear of missing out), while others believe social media is actually changing the way young brains are wired.

But no matter he reasons why or how, it’s important to recognize and understand the symptoms of depression so you can help your child if they need support. 

While social media encourages socialization, communication, and even offers education opportunities, it can also result in cyberbullying, harassment, and exposure to inappropriate content. This kind of stress can affect kids’ mental health — especially because young people don’t always understand the emotions and situations around them. 

Some researchers are even studying social media as a tool to measure and monitor the mental health of individual users. It's no surprise that social media is also guilty of fostering poor body image, despite the #bodypositivity promoted on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

When Are Kids Most Likely to Experience Depression?

Children change all the time. One day, they might hate Cheerios, only to eat them nonstop the next day. These changes usually happen with no warning, as many parents well know. One day everything is cool, and the next...nothing is! 

But there’s a huge difference between discovering new hobbies (or new favorite cereals) and larger shifts that can signal mental health issues. Research shows that the adolescent experience of depression is generally highest among teens, and the rate of teens experiencing depression has risen sharply in recent years. Physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during the teenage years aren’t the only causes of depression in kids. There are many other potential causes, including:

  • Family history
  • Chemical imbalances
  • Issues at home
  • Social issues
  • Excessive stress
  • Developmental changes

Learning the Symptoms of Depression

In order to understand the role social media is playing in the state of your teen's mental health, it's important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression. While depression will affect everyone differently, common symptoms are:

  • Persistently low mood — this can be anything from pure apathy, a "zombie-like" personality, sadness, excessive anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, unnecessary guilt, or irritability.
  • Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or energy for things they once loved
  • Trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating — the hormone imbalance caused by depression not only affects mood, it can often disturb sleeping, eating, and your teen's ability to focus.
  • Unexplained pain — mysterious aches or digestive issues with seemingly no other cause may be a result of depression.

If your child is expressing any of the above symptoms along with a number of others, they may be suffering from major depression or another mental health condition

Some Red Flags to Look Out For

To determine if your teen's mental health is being impacted by social media, look out for the following:

  • Increased phone or social media activity.
  • Posts with dark, depressing, or suicidal hints or innuendos. 
  • Social reclusion. Avoiding friends, family, and going out in general. If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, they may even stop going to school altogether.
  • Low self esteem.
  • Anxiety while using the computer or cell phone. Look out for furrowed brows and quick tab closes when you walk by.

How Bark Can Help

With the Bark app and the Bark Phone, we can help you manage when and if your child can access social media apps. Our award-winning service also monitors online activity and sends alerts if something concerning is found, like depression, suicidal ideation, bullying, and more. Sign up for a free, 7-day trial today.

About Bark

Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.