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Parent Social Media Use Impacts Teens' Mental Health

Report: Teaching By Example

Read the full report here:


Report Press Release:


While some teens' unhealthy social media habits may put them at risk, parent media use may be an even stronger predictor of their child’s mental health than the child’s own social media use.

Most parents would agree that being on social media is an important part of being an adolescent today. However, many parents are also extremely concerned about technology. Today’s parents are faced with new decision points about when and how to allow—or prohibit—access to different apps, devices, and streaming services. They carry fears about potential negative impacts on their children’s lives, development, and futures.

In our experience, parents want to support their adolescent children, but don’t always feel confident about digital decisions. They also want clear guidance—ideally, a “magic formula”—that will prevent their teens from experiencing negative outcomes from being on social media. Frustratingly, most research studies on teen technology use do not support simple, one-size-fits-all rules or formulas. However, emerging evidence does show that there are certain media use patterns and parenting practices that are related to both positive and negative outcomes from teen social media use.

This report examines how specific teen use patterns and parenting practices are related to adolescent mental health and other developmental outcomes—and what parents can do as they try to mitigate harm. We conducted a study comprised of two national quota samples to explore these aims. The first sample involved 1,231 adolescents (ages 10-17) from across the United States and focused on links between teen social media use and mental health. The second sample involved 201 adolescents (ages 10-17) and their parents who answered questions about social media, mental health, and parenting practices related to media use. The report outlines things that appear to matter for adolescent mental health—and things that do not.

Authors: Sarah Coyne, Emily Weinstein, Spencer James, Megan Gale, Megan Van Alfen