The widespread use of social media among teenagers has recently become a major public health concern. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 95% of adolescents have access to a smartphone, and 45% say that they use social media “almost constantly” (Anderson & Jiang, 2018, p. 8). While facilitating their access to information, communication with friends, and entertainment, the excessive use of social media can result in serious physical and psychological problems in adolescents.
Excessive use of social media can lead to the development of internet addiction, resulting in significant impairment of an individual’s life functions. The behavioral pattern of excessive internet usage is similar to that of substance addiction and includes tolerance, withdrawal, repeated failures to control or quit, and deterioration of social and cognitive functions (Bleakley et al., 2017). The primary physical consequences are insomnia, anxiety, depression, lack of physical activity, and body image problems (Bleakley et al., 2017). Nighttime internet usage and emotional investment in social media are linked with later bedtimes, increased pre-sleep cognitive arousal, worse quality of sleep, and higher levels of anxiety and depression (Scott & Woods, 2018). Overall, the physical effects of social media on adolescents are mostly negative and should be addressed by both teachers and health professionals.
The excessive use of social media is also related to a range of behavioral and psychological problems. The studies show changes in the brain structure of frequent internet users that are related to reward, emotion, attention, memory, decision-making, and cognitive control (Kurniasanti et al., 2019). In children, the excessive use of the internet can interfere with the formation of self-image and identity and the development of self-regulation mechanisms (Kurniasanti et al., 2019). Behavioral, emotional, and psychological problems include delaying other work to spend time online, insomnia, anger, depression, loneliness, anxiety, the weakening of social connections, withdrawal from real life, and lack of educational achievements (Mohamed & Bernouss, 2019). Young people becoming more and more attached to social networks increasingly withdraw themselves from other forms of communication, becoming more introverted and experiencing the feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Children and teenagers mostly use the internet for communication and entertainment. The study conducted by Mohamed and Bernouss among Moroccan high-school students showed that excessive use of social networks affects their academic life (Mohamed & Bernouss, 2019). The decline in the reading, mathematics, and science abilities witnessed among Moroccan students over the last decades is thought to be connected to the rising adoption of the internet (Mohamed & Bernouss, 2019). Children’s lack of self-regulation skills results in their inability to delay gratification and compulsive use of social media and the internet for entertainment.
Social media has a profound impact on all aspects of adolescents’ lives. With teenagers being the most vulnerable group of the population, their early exposure to technology makes them more prone to develop the symptoms of addictive behavior. Excessive social media usage results in severe negative physical and psychological consequences. Children who constantly access social media are more likely to develop insomnia, depression, anxiety, and body image problems. They tend to withdraw from real life, lose interest in school, and have communication difficulties. It is a serious public health concern that should be addressed on the national level by education professionals and healthcare workers.
Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Pew Research Center. Web.
Bleakley, A., Park., S., & Romer, D. (2017). Internet addiction. In D. L. Evans, E. B. Foa, R. E. Gur, H. Hendin, C. P. O’Brien, D. Romer, M. E. P. Seligman, & T. Walsh (Eds.), Treating and preventing adolescent mental health disorders: What we know and what we don’t know (pp. 586–596). Oxford University Press.
Scott, H., & Woods, H. C. (2018). Fear of missing out and sleep: Cognitive behavioral factors in adolescents’ nighttime social media use. Journal of Adolescence, 68, pp. 61–65. Web.
Kurniasanti, K., Assandi, P., Ismail, R., Nasrun, M., & Wiguna, T. (2019). Internet addiction: A new addiction? Medical Journal of Indonesia, 28(1), pp. 82–91. Web.
Mohamed, G., & Bernouss, R. (2019). A cross-sectional study on internet addiction among Moroccan high school students, its prevalence and association with poor scholastic performance. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), pp. 479–490. Web.