Social media — helping or harming your mental health?

In May 2017, a survey by the Royal Society for Public Health in England revealed that 3 of the 4 most popular social media platforms/apps had a net negative effect on the mental well-being of young people. Surveying nearly 1,500 teenagers and young adults aged 14 to 24 from February through May of 2017, the survey asked about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Some questions were on negative experiences and feelings, such as anxiety and depression when using the apps. Other questions were about positive experiences—such as getting emotional support on these sites and the ability for self-expression. Nearly 7 in 10 teens reported receiving support on social media during challenging times. ** See the end for all of the things asked in the survey.

For all of the sites, other than Facebook, the platforms were found to have more of a negative effect on mental well-being than a positive effect. Instagram was the worst—showing that it brings up a lot of feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, as well as problems with body image and sleep.

The survey’s authors have called on the social media companies to make changes to help curb these feelings of envy and inadequacy that result in anxiety and depression. Here are a few of those suggestions and how people in the survey thought about these ideas.

  1. In-app features that indicate when a picture has been digitally manipulated or edited (68% surveyed agreed with this recommendation—remember these are 14- to 24- year- olds agreeing)
  2. The inclusion of pop-up messages that tell a person when they are on an app excessively long (71% agreed with this)
  3. Social media apps should use algorithms to identify people that may be suffering from mental health problems and then discreetly send them info about getting help (80% agreed with this)

For this TTT, check in with your kids about how often they use these social media apps and what feelings come up for them when they do. If your kids are younger, then it can still be a great conversation about what responsibility companies have to their users.

Some talking points to get the conversation going:

  • What are some of the positives of being on social media for you personally? Can you give an example of getting social support during a challenging time?
  • Which platform makes you feel anxious or sad at times and why?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the suggestions that the authors are asking social media companies to do? And why?

** The 14 health and well-being-related issues were:

  1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
  2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
  3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
  4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease)
  5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
  6. Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own)
  7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
  8. Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
  9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
  10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
  11. Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
  12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
  13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behavior towards you)
  14. FoMO (Fear of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)

For more discussion ideas, you can peruse past Tech Talk Tuesdays. If you are interested in seeing Screenagers, you can find event listings on our site and find out how to host a screening.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on FacebookTwitter and at


Delaney Ruston, MD
Screenagers’ Filmmaker


Screenagers Tech Talk Tuesday


I hear from many pre-teen and teen girls that they or their friends have been asked by boys via social media to send nude pics. In one discussion I had with a 10th-grade girl this week, she told me it “happens all the time” to her. This is so very disturbing.

Now here is the real killer. The guys have been known to make threats if the girls don’t comply. Girls are threatened with social embarrassment on many fronts.

Sexual exploration is a natural part of growing up—and growing up is so much about being seen as cool and desirable by peers. Girls get a lot of attention for their sexy looks, and guys get kudos for interacting with girls – and sometimes that means getting “pics.”

According to a 2016 survey from Statistics Brain, 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys say they have sent or posted sexually suggestive content to a boy or girlfriend.  Here is what I find very interesting—”48% of young adult women and 46% of young adult men say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.”

It is imperative that we try to have conversations with our sons and daughters about the pressures, internal and external, of looking “hot” and sending “hot” photos. We need to arm girls with ways to respond to pressures. Talking to our boys about what are the messages of guys on how to be cool, why is there so much asking girls for pics, and what as a culture can we do to decrease this?

For this week’s TTT, start a conversation with your children about pictures and social media. The key is CURIOSITY. Teens will likely be very defensive with this conversation unless we approach it with kid gloves. Teens are at a time when the worst thing we can do is judge them. Being curious about the pictures culture can make for much better conversations.

  • Which celebrities show the most revealing photos these days?
  • Have you heard of girls being pressured into sending sexy photos?
  • What are some reasons guys may be pressuring girls to send them photos?
  • Should health classes discuss these issues or should they just be for home discussion?

For more discussion ideas, you can peruse past Tech Talk Tuesdays. If you are interested in seeing Screenagers, you can find event listings on our site and find out how to host a screening.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on FacebookTwitter and at


Delaney Ruston, MD
Screenagers’ Filmmaker

Tips on Managing Screen Time During Summer

Tips on Managing Screen Time During Summer


Since its release this winter, more than four months ago, people have seen Screenagers in showings in hundreds of cities around the world. We keep hearing from parents about the conversations the film has sparked with their kids— this is great!

As we enter into the final weeks of the school year, we are all extra busy trying to fit it so much in. Summer break is right around the corner, and many of us are looking forward to having a little more free time.

But what activities will fill that time? Screen-based activities will be more enticing than ever. Are you ready? Frankly, I know it will be a challenge in my home. I have been thinking of things I plan to do and I thought I would share them here:

  1. Adjust your family’s screen time contract: The agreements you made together about when and where screens are appropriate are probably geared toward life during the school year. They might need a little tweaking to fit your new summer schedules and activities. I would say the number one rule still should be to take the screens out of the bedroom at a reasonable hour. I was speaking with a sleep expert colleague today at Stony Brook and she hopes the American Pediatrics Association will put this in their new guidelines — we will know soon.

  2. Make a screens-on/off vacation plan: Consider guidelines about screen use during road trips, flights, and family time while you’re away on vacation together. Even if you have always allowed your kids to be on their phones in the car, it’s perfectly reasonable to change it up for a trip. In my family, we listen to podcasts together during long car rides. We all enjoy Planet Money and Freakonomics.

  3. Fight fire with fire: Try using technology to help you help your kids to limit their screen time. For example, the app OurPact, has a way for you to turn off your child’s social media for any amount of time. You might agree that there should be four hours in the middle of the day where there will be no phone apps.

  4. Identify positive screen activities: Direct your child toward places to play pro-social games or learn new skills like programming or video editing. Did you know that on average kids only spend 3% of their tech time doing content creation such as making videos or composing music on Garageband? Once they get over the hurdle of just starting to do it, you (and they) will see how productive, relaxed and… CREATIVE they feel!

  5. Subscribe to Tech Talk Tuesdays from the Screenagers website: Sign up here to receive weekly ideas about conversations you can have with your family about a healthy approach to screen time. Last week, for example, we tackled how to navigate a tricky situation — sticking to your family screen use guidelines when friends are over.

PBS NewsHour: The drug-like effect of screen time on the teenage brain.

 Enjoy summer with your family!

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on FacebookTwitter and

Sincerely, Delaney

Screenagers’ Filmmaker