View all Press ReleasesA Double-edged Sword: How Diverse Communities of young people think about the multifaceted relationship between social media and mental health
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New Report From Common Sense Media and Hopelab Reveals How Social Media Can Both Help and Harm Mental Health in Young People from Diverse Communities

Findings show that youth from marginalized communities use social media for mental health support but it also creates a challenging environment that requires them to take steps to protect themselves

SAN FRANCISCO, May 21, 2024 —Today, Common Sense Media and Hopelab released a comprehensive research report detailing the role that social media plays in young people’s mental health. “A Double-Edged Sword: How Diverse Communities of Young People Think About the Multifaceted Relationship Between Social Media and Mental Health” found that, while levels of depression have returned to pre-pandemic levels, young people are still encountering harmful content on social media and using curation tools or taking breaks to strike a healthy balance.

One of the major findings from the report revealed that for Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ youth, social media is a vital source of connection, news, and inspiration, and that they are more likely to take active steps to navigate its specific challenges in comparison to their white and non-LGBTQ+ peers.

“One of the key learnings from this report is that the experiences of young people on social media are incredibly varied and that solutions to make the internet safer aren’t one-size-fits-all. Instead, we should focus our efforts on those who say they struggle the most, and by doing so, we can elevate the experiences of all users,” said Amanda Lenhart, Head of Research at Common Sense Media. “This research surfaces the voices of diverse young people on a complex topic that demands national attention and a thoughtful approach from companies that build these platforms.”

The report is the third in a series that tracks the role of social media in how young people ages 14-22 support their mental health and well-being. Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the study was uniquely co-created with young people themselves, who not only provided direction and input regarding survey content but also worked with the research team to prioritize and interpret results through focus groups and individual interviews. It takes a deep dive into the differences in experiences between teens (ages 14-17) and young adults (ages 18-22), variations across racial and ethnic groups, and comparisons among those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who do not.

“Most conversations and headlines surrounding social media and youth mental health focus solely on the harms, portraying young people as passive consumers. This research shows that it’s much more complex. Many acknowledge and take actions to minimize the harmful parts of social media, while also describing social media as an important and positive aspect of their lives,” said Amy Green, Head of Research at Hopelab. “If we truly want to improve the well-being of young people, we need to listen to their experiences and ensure that we do not inadvertently remove access to crucial positive benefits, particularly among Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ young people.”

Building upon data trends from prior surveys released in 2018 and 2021, key findings from the 2024 report include:

  • Social connection: While pandemic-era social isolation has ended, young people continue to highly value social media for social connection and self-expression. Nearly three-fourths of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed (74%) said social media platforms were especially valuable for combating feelings of loneliness.
  • Information access: Both Black and Latinx young people are more likely to indicate social media is important for finding information or resources about mental health or well-being than their white peers (64% Black and 59% Latinx vs. 44% white).
  • Pressing pause: Young people are actively managing their social media consumption by taking temporary (63%) and permanent breaks (41%) from social media so that they would not be tempted to spend so much time on it and three-quarters (76%) of young people are putting measures in place to try to control what they see on social media with 67% “curating their feed” by spending more time on specific types of content or liking posts, challenging the stereotype that they’re passive consumers of social content.
  • State of mind matters: 64% of young people with moderate to severe depressive symptoms indicate that when they use social media, they feel as if others’ lives are better than theirs, compared to 38% of those with no symptoms.

More details on the methodology and a copy of the full report and findings can be downloaded at www.commonsense.org/youth-perspectives-social-media-mental-health.

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About Hopelab
Hopelab is a transformative social innovation lab and impact investor working to support the mental well-being of adolescents, ages 10-25, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. Through targeted social impact investments, youth-centered design and research support, and translational science partnerships, the organization leverages 20+ years of co-creation experience to influence systems change while centering health equity. Learn more at hopelab.org.

About Common Sense
Common Sense is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org


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