From 1990-2009, the teen suicide rate had shown a steady decline. Then, in 2010, as smartphone and social media use increased rapidly, the teen suicide rate started to rise again.
While the long-term impacts of social media on teen suicide and self-harm is unknown, early indicators are not good. Several studies show that teens who spend the most time on social media report a substantially higher rate of depression than those who spend the least time. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Between 2007 and 2018, the suicide rate among 10 to 24 year olds increased nearly 60 percent. Forty-two states had significant increases in suicide rates between 2007-2009 and 2016-2018, most with a 30-60 percent increase.
Teen girls appear to be suffering the most. Not only are they fourteen percent more likely to be depressed if they are regular users of social media, but a ten year study by BYU found that teen girls who spent at least two to three hours per day and increased use over time were at a higher risk for suicide as young adults.
During four weeks of the Coronavirus pandemic, emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 50 percent among girls aged 12-17 compared to the same period in 2019. While this cannot be attributed solely to social media, the use of social media during the pandemic also increased.
As use of social media grows, so do acts of cyberbullying, cyber harassment, and cyber stalking. The statistics here are staggering. For example, middle school children who are victims of cyberbullying were twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who were not.
There are many positive aspects to social media. Self-expression, social connection, to name just a few. Unfortunately, misuse and overuse seem to negatively effect some teens in ways that can lead to increased rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, and even suicide.
What’s The Right Amount Of Social Media Use For Teens?
The truth is, we don’t know. Some experts suggest that early teen social media usage should be limited to twenty minutes a day.
Social media can be an incredibly rewarding and positive experience for some teens. It is important for parents to be involved and aware of their child’s social media usage so they can recognize unhealthy habits and negative experiences if and when they begin to form.