City Study Highlights Dangers of Social Media for Youth

The report found that the rate of social media use and impact vary by neighborhood, poverty and the type of school the child attended.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan released a data report exploring social media use and its impact on users’ mental health and found few surprises: social media helps to create “a toxic environment.”

The report — a first in-the-nation from a public health agency — includes the results of two new surveys aimed at exploring the social media habits and mental health status of caregivers and their children, according to a news release.

The survey was completed by 22,484 parents, guardians or other caregivers of a child or teen between the ages of 5 and 17 residing in New York City.

“The results of this survey provide yet another confirmation of what we have long known: Social media platforms help to create a toxic environment that has detrimental effects on our young people,” said Adams.

“Our administration is committed to supporting our youth and bettering their mental health by launching programs like TeenSpace and by increasing access to mental health clinics in our public schools, as well as by taking on social media companies that are using their platforms to harm our children. As this week’s actions by the U.S. surgeon general demonstrate, we must all act to quickly combat this detrimental issue, or our children will be the ones who continue to suffer.”

Parents of New York City teens who use social media are more likely to report that their teen has an anxiety diagnosis (27%), or depression diagnosis (14%), than parents of teens who do not use social media.

Parents who use social media are also more likely to have indicators of depression or anxiety, compared with those who do not. Frequency of mental health diagnoses and symptoms increase with rates of use.

Among teens who report using social media daily, 90% report worrying in general and 56% report at least some depressive symptoms.

Most teens surveyed report turning to social media to be entertained, to learn new things or out of boredom. Those who report boredom as their top reason are more likely to report worrying about the future compared with those who do not report boredom as their top reason.

Rates of use and impacts vary by neighborhood, poverty and type of school attended. Teens who live in areas of very high poverty report using social media more than their counterparts who live in wealthier neighborhoods, representing a nearly 10% difference between the two groups.

Children who attend public or charter schools are more likely to use social media than their counterparts in private school.

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