Managing the Effects of Social Media on Teen Girls (2023)

Before they shower, brush their teeth, and eat breakfast, many teen girls start their mornings by reaching for their phones. On the way to school, they might scroll Instagram posts from classmates, share videos from their favorite TikTok creators, or respond to late-night texts from a group chat with their best friends.

These may seem like trivial interactions—although adults are guilty of their own digital obsessions—but for many teen girls, social media platforms have significant effects on their mental and emotional health.

Researchers who studied data on more than 10,000 adolescents foundfrequent social media use disproportionately affects teen girls’ mental health more negatively than that of teen boys.While this may seem like a side effect of a generation addicted to their phones, the answer isn’t as simple as logging off. Despite the harmful consequences, many teen girls continue to use these digital platforms out of fear of missing out, saidNatasha Varela,director of child, adolescent, and family services and therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

“Teens often have an untouchable, carefree attitude,” Varela said. “They know cyberbullying is possible, but they’ll think, ‘If it happens to me, I can handle it.’”

Counselors, parents, and other care providers can encourage teen girls to develop resilience and healthy habits while browsing online and leverage their social media use to contribute positively to their mental and physical health.

“Even if they act like they’re not bothered by it, teens do want us to pay attention,” Varela said. “They still want to be cared for.”

The Landscape of Teen Social Media Use

Screen time is an increasingly pervasive way that people of all ages spend their day-to-day lives. A 2019 report from Common Sense Media calculated theuse of screens by teens and tweensfrom ages 8 to 18 (not including for schoolwork or homework):

Tweens (8–12 years old)

4:44hours per day

Teens (13–18 years old)

7:22hours per day

According to the report, the vast majority of screen time for both age groups is spent watching TV and playing games, followed by browsing social media and other websites.

“A lot of that use is happening at night,” Varela said. “It takes them away from getting enough sleep, which can be problematic for their development.”

When scrolling through social media, teens are looking at various types of content, including posts from their friends and family members, content posted by celebrities and influencers, and targeted ads from brands and companies who sell products and services online.

When it comes to what they themselves are posting, boys and girls differ in the type of content they’re putting out into the world and their emotional attachment to the content they are posting, Varela said.

While boys lean more toward sharing things that are funny or entertaining, “girls are really using social media to connect with other people,” she said. “A lot of teens use this space to present themselves how they want to be seen, but there is a pressure for girls to be worried about others going to perceive them.”

Managing the Effects of Social Media on Teen Girls (1)

A 2018 report from Pew Researchindicates that girls have noticeably different behaviors when using social media and are more likely than boys to post about their personal beliefs, feelings, and problems.

Go to a tabular version of the data at the bottom of the page for information about the topics teens post about on social media.

The Negative Effects of Social Media Use

While the long-term effects of an adolescence shaped by a constant online presence can’t be fully known yet, several researchers have tracked the browsing habits of young children and teens to determine if potentially negative mental health outcomes are related to online activity behaviors.


Bullying has long been a source of psychological distress for adolescents. In a 2019 report from The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health on associations between social media use and mental health and well-being, researchers found cyberbullying and lack of sleep accounted for 60 percent of the connection between social media and psychological distress. For girls, social media use was inversely proportional to well-being.

Authors of the study also suggested that effects of social media use are due mostly to what screen time takes teens away from: sleep and exercise. According to the report, “interventions to promote mental health should include efforts to prevent or increase resilience to cyberbullying and ensure adequate sleep and physical activity in young people.”

“It’s hard to admit when it becomes a problem, because there’s pressure to go along with what their peers are doing” Varela said.


In a 2017 study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, researchers found two types of reciprocal, depressive cycles related to using the social media platform Instagram: browsing and posting.

Instagram browsing was related to increases in adolescents’ depressed mood. Similarly, a teen’s initial depressed mood was also related to increases in Instagram posting. This makes for a painful cycle: The more you browse, the more depressed you are; the more depressed you are, the more you post.

According to the study, both cycles were similar for boys and girls and suggest the need for more research.


A 2019 cross-sectional study on teen suicide rates from 1975 to 2016 inJAMA Network Openshows the largest percentage increases in girls ages 10 to 14.

Ininvited commentary on theJAMA Network Openstudy,authors suggest thatstress from social media could be a common factor associated with suicide attempts.They acknowledge that “this study was not designed … to investigate what the sources of increasing suicide rates in youth more generally are or, even further, why these rates are increasing so rapidly in girls aged 10 to 14 years. … [however], there has been speculation and some empirical data to suggest that the rise of social media use in youth is one factor that may be associated with increased suicidality.” Authors of this commentary go on to cite several studies that reveal more about girls’ social media use, including that “girls use social media more frequently and are more likely to experience cyberbullying.”

When negative behaviors go unaddressed, Varela said the consequences can include “self-harm, feelings of hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and potential for wanting to harm others.”

Negative Body Image

A 2017 study of adolescents’ responses to social media browsingshows thatnegative self-comparison predicted immediate effect on emotions after browsing others’ social profiles.

Researchers also stated that subjects’ awareness of social media’s curated nature and unrealistic highlight reels can be a helpful protective factor for teens in understanding the difference between reality and expectations.

“External pressure is emphasized more with girls,” Varela said. “There’s an imbalance in the pressure on them to look a certain way.”

(Video) The impact of social media on teens and tweens

How to Build Healthy Habits on Social Media

If teens know that cyberbullying is a guaranteed part of the online experience, why not just sign off?

(Video) Impact of social media on teens mental health and how to manage it

“There’s a pressure to join in on something negative that’s going on and a desire to appear a certain way to their peers,” Varela said.

She said the best way to address these pressures is with self-reflection and thoughtful intention.

Healthy Social Media Habits for Teens

Find a safe space to check in.Use one-on-one time with a counselor, parent, or friend to confidentially and candidly discuss social and emotional well-being.

Create your own boundaries. What’s a good balance between screen time and other responsibilities? Set limits on your own screen time or social apps.

Respect others’ boundaries.If you know your peers are offline or headed to bed at night, respectfully avoid keeping them awake with messages or social media posts.

Talk openly about self-awareness and emotions.Think about the effects that cyberbullying has on others or reflect on a time when you were affected by similar behavior.

Role-play hypothetically.How would you handle it if someone posted things about you that aren’t true? Who would you ask if you needed help? Talk about strategies for responding—or not responding—before reacting in the moment.

Varela said that when teens think more intentionally about what they’re doing before they post online, they are less likely to share things they regret or that will harm others.

Counseling Teens on Social Media Use

It’s OK for teens to spend time online.Creating an online presence is part of forming their identity, building social skills, and learning about the world on their own terms

“Teens are often moody and resistant,” Varela said. “There’s a baseline, and then there’s behavior that is clinically significant.”

Completely banning social media use can create rebellious and fear-based behavior while falsely instilling the idea that social media has only negative outcomes, she added. Many teens may find that it helps with social isolation, self-expression, and human connections. Instead of forbidding screen time,parents and adults can talk to teens about optimizing technology to benefit their lives.

How to Manage Teen Social Media Use

Identify intentions and habits.Use a face-to-face conversation to ask your teen what their intentions are with social media. Are they using it to make friends or find romantic partners? What kind of impact do they want their social media content to have on others?

(Video) Always Online: Weighing the Effects of Social Media on Teens' Mental Health

Talk about tone and language.Ask teens to reflect on how their words affect others around them. Discuss the short-term and long-term consequences of harmful language.

Set screen-time limits and tech-free zones.Make use of in-app and in-device limitations that restrict screen time and social media access, without blocking it completely.

Stop cyberbullying before it happens.Educate teens about the risks of hostile and bullying behavior, both online and in real life.

Model mindfulness and presence.If you’ve created a tech-free zone at home or at school, make sure you and other adults are abiding by the rules as well.

Look for changes in behavior.Teens may suddenly change the way they’re behaving, like withdrawing from social activities or their overall affect or personality is different.

Create a safe space to report bullying anonymously.Some schools and organizations have online portals or hotlines to report bullying. Make sure that teens know where and how to use them.

“Counselors have an obligation to talk to clients about what their social media use is,” Varela said. That includes assessing their habits, unpacking their emotions related to online behavior, and providing them with strategies for responding.

Balancing Social Isolation with Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is a key reason why young people compulsively scroll through social media apps. Seeing what others are doing, posting, saying or creating online is a means of keeping up with social groups, but it can also have detrimental effects that compound upon the negative effects of social isolation.

“Even though social media keeps us connected it’s not quite the same,” Varela said. “Teens are still feeling trapped and isolated.”

Varela said many teen girls who have started attending a new school during the pandemic are struggling to make new connections with peers that would normally happen in person. By relying on social media for connections, girls have increased pressure to think about how peers will perceive them or judge them online.

Additionally, negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, dissociation and disrupted sleep can begin to manifest physically. Below, Varela describes several strategies for practicing mindfulness as a means of managing screen use.

Managing Social Media Use During Social Isolation

Give your brain a break from screen time. Schedule or plan time to spend away from screens, such as meal times, exercising and school work, if possible. Think about creative hobbies that don’t involve screens.

Find other ways to connect online. Instead of scrolling, commenting or practicing one-way communications, try other platforms that allow for real-time dialogues like FaceTime, Zoom calls or virtual game platforms.

Spend time with people in your household. In-person interactions like playing games, watching movies or going for walks can help connections feel more real.

Limit consumption of traumatic videos. Consuming news stories about violence and trauma can be harmful to viewers of all ages but especially those who may need parental guidance to process what they’re seeing.

Look out for symptoms of overuse. Practice doing a body scan to identify ways that screen time has created physical reactions, such as headaches, dry eyes, hunger and dehydration.

“Just like if your computer is on all day without being recharged, your brain is going to shut down without any replenishment,” Varela said. “We need time to rest and recharge.”

(Video) Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences

Parents can play an important role in making sure their teens have the right support and resources to manage the mental health effects of social media and screen use.

“It’s important to teach them about making choices and using soft discipline to set the right limits,” Varela said. “Open communication can help parents be accessible to kids if something is troubling them.”

Many teens have had to make difficult choices about who they want to stay connected to because of insensitive posts related to breaking public health restrictions, racial injustice and other social issues at the forefront of social media discussions. Varela said she encourages parents to offer compassion and empathy for teens’ decisions.

She described several ways parents and other adults can model healthy relationships with social media and screens.

Tips for Adults to Model Healthy Screen Use

Be a student. Ask kids to teach you how to use an app, post a video or create an account for a social media platform as an opportunity to learn more about how they’re using the platform.

Be curious about their interests. Ask teens about the types of videos they enjoy to better understand their interests. You can offer to watch or create videos together which can serve as a bonding experience.

Be mindful of traumatic content. Notice when violent or traumatic videos are making headlines, and be ready to discuss them with your teen. Remember to use thoughtful, sensitive language and ask self-reflective questions about what’s appropriate for viewing.

Be an example. Show teens what a healthy level of media consumption looks like by setting your own boundaries. Avoid posting every moment of your life online, and observe phone-free breaks such as family meals, group activities or quality time.

“A healthy use of screen time is something you do to fill in gaps of activities that are priorities,” Varela said.

She suggested parents and teens think about what their priorities are and identify what they actually want to spend their time doing—pursuing hobbies, school work, exercising, family time, socializing, rest, exercise—and consider whether phones and social media are taking away from those priorities.

“Is it taking you away from what you actually care about?” Varela said. Re-imagining how to spend time during social isolation can be a pivotal opportunity to create a healthier lifestyle and lead to better mental health outcomes.

Resources for Further Reading

The following section includes tabular data from the graphic in the post.

Topics Teens Post About on Social Media

TopicGirls, age 13-14Girls, age 15-17Boys, age 13-14Boys, age 15-17
















Dating Life





Personal Problems





Religious Beliefs





Political Beliefs





Source:Pew Research Center. (2018).Teens’ social media habits and experiences.

(Video) How Damaging Is Social Media to Our Teens Girls?

Back to graphic.

Citation for this content: Counseling@Northwestern, theOnline Master of Arts in Counseling Programfrom The Family Institute at Northwestern University


How does social media affect teenage girls? ›

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

How do teens manage social media? ›

9 ways to help teens manage their social media footprint
  1. Don't know what Snapchat is? Download it. ...
  2. Model the behavior you want to see. ...
  3. Use current events to your advantage. ...
  4. Talk to your teens. ...
  5. Teach kids the three "Ws." ...
  6. Monitor moods. ...
  7. Safety first. ...
  8. Have a back-up plan.
12 Jun 2017

How are females affected by social media? ›

Since the invention and widespread adoption of social media, studies have consistently shown interactions on these sites, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, negatively affect girls, leading to depression, negative body image, and potentially even suicide.

What are the positive and negative effects of social media on youth? ›

Social media use may expose teens to peer pressure, cyberbullying, and increased mental health risk. But, social media can also connect isolated teens and help them find supportive networks. Parents can set limitations and communicate openly with teens about healthy social media use.

How does social media affect girls self image? ›

For example, one study found that people who are more emotionally connected to social media, use social media at night, or use social media more frequently are more likely to have lower self-esteem. Moreover, those groups of people also had lower sleep quality and higher rates of anxiety and depression.

How social media affects teenage girls self-esteem? ›

Numerous studies continue to indicate that social media use correlates to increased risks of depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, and anxiety. According to some studies, social media use does appear to cause a decrease in self-esteem, with the age group most affected being girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

Should parents control their teenagers use of social media? ›

The posting of pictures online should be monitored to control for sexting and other explicit sexual behaviors. Words and behaviors online that evoke harsh responses or unflattering images can damage self-esteem. The main reasons for not monitoring your teens social media activities are privacy and trust.

How can social media negative effects be reduced? ›

Using social media in a better way
  1. Spend less time on social platforms. ...
  2. Don't scroll first thing in the morning or before bed. ...
  3. Turn off notifications and only check social media at certain times. ...
  4. Use social media on a device that's not your phone. ...
  5. Create a feel-good follow list.

Are girls more affected by social media? ›

Girls seem to be more sensitive to the impact of social media slightly earlier than boys, which may be due to maturational processes like puberty starting earlier,” she said.

Why do females spend more time on social media? ›

Females use social media less than men for business reasons, whereas women use social media to share more personal information than me, revealing more about their personal lives. Women are more vocal, expressive and willing to share. In other words, women are biologically wired for social networking.

How much time do teens spend on social media? ›

On average, daily screen use went up among tweens (ages 8 to 12) to five hours and 33 minutes from four hours and 44 minutes, and to eight hours and 39 minutes from seven hours and 22 minutes for teens (ages 13 to 18).

How does media affect our personality? ›

Social Media's Negative Effects On Relationships

It can help people who are socially isolate or shy connect with people; on the other hand, it is correlated with personality and brain disorders such as the need for instant gratification, ADHD and addictive personalities.

How social media affects our life? ›

However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote negative experiences such as: Inadequacy about your life or appearance.

How does the media influence teenage Behaviour? ›

Media messages can have a negative or unhealthy influence on pre-teen and teenage behaviour and attitudes in certain areas, including self-image, body image, health and citizenship. Your child's self-image and body image can be influenced by social media, other media and advertising.

How does social media affect teenage relationships positively? ›

The availability of social media can bring positive effects to teenagers, such as allowing them to communicate and form positive interactions with people who live far away. They can also form new friendships and possibly find support amongst other teens when they are in need of it.

How can you prevent the media from damaging your teen's body image? ›

How to Limit Media's Harmful Effects
  1. Hold conversations about unhealthy body images. Discuss body acceptance and that every body is different and beautiful. ...
  2. Listen to your teen. Ask them how they feel when they see these images in the media. ...
  3. Talk about marketing efforts. ...
  4. Use real examples.
6 Jan 2022

How does social media affect teenagers mental health essay? ›

However, social networking sites have a negative effect on teens mental health as frequent use of these sites causes mental disorders such depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Although social media has enhanced our connectivity, it is also causing a decline in social and communication skills.

How can social media improve your self confidence? ›

Networking on social media allows you to connect with others, building new relationships and strengthening established one. Getting “likes” and other positive feedback boosts moods and increases self confidence. By uploading photos and videos, you can share your special moments with those in your circle.

How does social media affect teens self confidence? ›

Social media affects teenagers' mental health negatively by limiting direct contact with peers and encouraging constant comparison online, which can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

How social media affects students? ›

It is easy to become addicted, and research shows that students who spend too much time on social media can suffer from poor sleep, eye fatigue, negative body image, depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, and more.

How can students avoid social media? ›

6 ways to avoid social media distraction while learning online
  1. Close any social media sites & apps. ...
  2. Limit your smartphone usage.
  3. Turn off your phone or leave it out of reach.
  4. Create a social media schedule.
  5. Research where your time is going and use reminders.
  6. Replace your time on social media with other activities.

How can we use social media safely and responsibly? ›

Managing your digital identity
  1. use settings that determine who sees your posts.
  2. set your timeline so only friends can see it.
  3. avoid making individual posts visible to 'friends of friends' and 'public'
  4. don't share any personal details.
  5. remember, everyone may see which pages you like, so take care, and if in doubt – unlike.

How should parents treat their teenager? ›

Parenting teenagers
  • Conflict is normal. Conflict with your teenager is not always a bad thing - your teenager is learning to become independent. ...
  • Give clear guidelines. ...
  • Respect their views. ...
  • Show interest. ...
  • Spend time together. ...
  • Make time for talking and listening. ...
  • Give them space. ...
  • Encourage them.

How do teens manage their phones? ›

  1. Make Screen Time a Privilege. ...
  2. Role Model Healthy Habits. ...
  3. Discourage Multitasking. ...
  4. Establish Clear Rules. ...
  5. Encourage Physical Activity. ...
  6. Electronics-Free Mealtimes. ...
  7. Screen-Free Days. ...
  8. Schedule Family Activities.
12 Aug 2020

Why parents should control their children's use of social media? ›

If you've got young children using the internet, parental controls of some sort are a necessity to ensure they are kept safe from threats online. These threats include predators, cybercriminals, cyberbullying and inappropriate content.

How can we avoid bad influence in social life? ›

Here are five strategies to take back you power and reduce the detrimental impact negative people have in your life:
  1. Guard Your Time. ...
  2. Choose Your Attitude. ...
  3. Refocus Your Thoughts. ...
  4. Choose to Behave Productively. ...
  5. Seek Out Positive People.
10 Jan 2015

How can we prevent social media from affecting mental health? ›

Protecting your mental wellness on social media
  • Take stock of how your feeds make you feel. ...
  • Understand what's happening in your brain. ...
  • Try not to compare. ...
  • Put some usage boundaries in place. ...
  • Get strict about curation. ...
  • Start over (or step away entirely)
2 Dec 2021

How social media is harmful to children? ›

In addition to problematic digital behaviors, there may be changes in children's daily behavior at home like: Increased irritability. Increased anxiety. Lack of self-esteem.

Is social media bad for girls? ›

In a study published in Nature Communications, UK data shows, girls experience a negative link between social media use and life satisfaction when they are 11-13 years old and boys when they are 14-15 years old. Increased social media use also predicts lower life satisfaction at age 19 years.

How social media affects teenage safety? ›

But what impact is all of this social networking having on young minds?” Teens' developing brains are extremely vulnerable to so much time online, and because they often have difficulty self-regulating their screen time, risks increase which means they are more susceptible to peer pressure, cyberbullying and sexting.

How does social media affect women's mental health? ›

In a study of over 900 people (around 75% of whom were women) ages 26-35, users who spent more of their time on social media reported increased feelings of loneliness and also showed symptoms of smartphone addiction.

How does social media affect teenagers mental health essay? ›

However, social networking sites have a negative effect on teens mental health as frequent use of these sites causes mental disorders such depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Although social media has enhanced our connectivity, it is also causing a decline in social and communication skills.

How do teenagers spend their time? ›

How teenagers spend free time. All teenagers are different. But many enjoy spending their free time doing things like shopping, going to parties, being with friends, gaming and using social media, texting, watching movies, reading and going to the beach or park.

How much time do teens spend on social media? ›

On average, daily screen use went up among tweens (ages 8 to 12) to five hours and 33 minutes from four hours and 44 minutes, and to eight hours and 39 minutes from seven hours and 22 minutes for teens (ages 13 to 18).

How does social media affect teenagers mental health 2022? ›

Research studies note the connection between use of social media and its undesirable outcomes that increase incidence of anxiety, stress, depression, body image concerns, and loneliness in teens and young adults (APA, 2022).

How can you stay safe on social media? ›

Staying safe on social media
  1. Set your profiles to private. ...
  2. Remember anything you post can be shared. ...
  3. Recognise the fakes. ...
  4. Spring clean your contacts. ...
  5. Block anyone who bothers you. ...
  6. Protect your identity. ...
  7. Avoid the big risks. ...
  8. Let your friends and family know about your online choices.

How social media affects our everyday life? ›

Multiple studies have shown that unlimited use of social media causes stress, bad moods and negative mental health. Many people wake up in the morning and immediately check their Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter.

Is social media helpful or harmful? ›

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.

How social media affects self-esteem? ›

Research shows that the more time people spend on Facebook and Instagram, the more they compare themselves socially. This social comparison is linked, among other things, to lower self-esteem and higher social anxiety.

How can social media be positive? ›

Social media may provide individuals with a platform that overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions.

How social media affects the mental health of students? ›

Social media use can lead to low quality sleep and harm mental health. It has associations with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Many people in today's world live with their smartphones as virtual companions.

What are the pros and cons of social media? ›

Pros & Cons of Social Media
Put yourself out there in a good wayPosting inappropriate statuses/pictures
Connect with students in other educational systemsMaking people feel bad about themselves
Make new friends/communicate or connect with old friends/familyCyberbullying
15 more rows

What are the negative effects of social media essay? ›

Disadvantages of Social Media

It is harmful because it invades your privacy like never before. The oversharing happening on social media makes children a target for predators and hackers. It also leads to cyberbullying which affects any person significantly.


1. How social media is affecting teens
(CBC News: The National)
2. Teen girls open up about the 'constant pressure' of social media
(ABC News)
3. Social Media and Teenage Self-Esteem
(Celeste Copini)
4. How the Sexualization of Teen Girls on Social Media is Affecting Their Self-Esteem
(The Doctors)
5. Teen Voices: Friendships and Social Media
(Common Sense Education)
6. Teens and Technology: The Impact of Social Media on Relationships, Friendships and Families
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 07/06/2023

Views: 6243

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.