Social media and adolescent mental health: the good, the bad and the ugly
Background: Social media are integral in the lives of adolescents. Practitioners need to be able to assess risk, and social media are potentially a new dimension to consider. Adolescent voices and practitioner perspectives are central to understanding the relationship between social media and mental health, yet there is limited work that highlights their views.
Aims: This paper aims to illuminate the perspectives of adolescents and practitioners about social media and mental health.
Method: Eight focus groups, six with adolescents aged 11–18 years and two with mental health practitioners, were conducted. Ethical approval was provided. Discussions allowed for expression of experiences, views and opinions of the relationship between social media and mental health.
Results: Participants discussed what might be thought of as the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly” side of social media, navigating the benefits of social media to well-being against possible negative impacts on adolescents. They differentiated personal use from third party attributions whereby they extolled the risk to adolescents outside of their personal group. Much of the negative rhetoric of social media was repeated by mental health practitioners, although there was some acknowledgement of potential benefit.
Conclusions: Practitioners need to consider social media and its role in practice. When risk-assessing adolescents, it is arguably useful to include a social media dimension, without presuming the relationship will be negative.