Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents

Despite growing evidence of the effects of social media on the mental health of adolescents, there is still a dearth of empirical research into how adolescents themselves perceive social media, especially as knowledge resource or how they draw upon the wider social and media discourses to express a viewpoint. Accordingly, this paper contributes to this scarce literature. Six focus groups took place over three months with 54 adolescents aged 11–18 years, recruited from schools in Leicester and London (UK). Thematic analysis suggested that adolescents perceived social media as a threat to mental wellbeing and three themes were identified; 1) it was believed to cause mood and anxiety disorders for some adolescents, (2) it was viewed as a platform for cyberbullying, and (3) the use of social media itself was often framed as a kind of ‘addiction’. Future research should focus on targeting and utilising social media for promoting mental wellbeing among adolescents and educating youth to manage the possible deleterious effects.

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