It has been over a year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lot has changed in our world. It has become mandatory for people of all ages to use digital platforms to communicate with others and complete basic tasks for school and work. Coupled with this increase in technology use, we have seen an increase in mental health challenges for young people. A recent study completed by Common Sense Media in conjunction with Hopelab and the California Health Care Foundation suggests that technology has played a key role in providing support and resources for young people who are experiencing these mental health challenges.
The report, Coping with COVID-19: How Young People Use Digital Media to Manage Their Mental Health states that “depression rates have increased significantly since 2018, especially among teens and young adults who have had coronavirus infections in their homes.” The study cites the increase in the percentage of young people who report moderate to severe depressive symptoms (up from 25% in 2018 to 38% in 2020) and explores the role that technology can play in supporting these young people. It explains that young people have increased their use of digital health resources by connecting with their health practitioners online and seeking information about topics that include COVID-19, fitness, anxiety, stress, and depression. The report states that, “Forty percent of young people have looked online for “health peers,” or people with similar health concerns to their own.”
The study also examines the role social media plays in the lives of young people, including those with moderate to severe depressive symptoms. The researchers found that young people who are experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms use social media more frequently than their peers. These young people stated that they use social media to get inspiration from others, feel less alone, and get support or advice when needed. One study participant said, “I just wanted to see how other people dealt with their stress, especially with school and how they balance it all. It helped me to see that I wasn’t alone in my anxiety, and that there are better ways to deal with anxiety rather than just pushing it to the back burner.”
Not all participants had a positive experience with technology and social media. For the 5% of the participants in the study who reported having severe depressive symptoms, social media caused increased stress and anxiety. Still, for a majority of participants, technology gave them access to the information and support they were seeking.
For more information, check out the following resources:
- Social Media and Mental Health
- Coping with COVID-19 Fact Sheets
- Apps to Help with Mental Health
- Coping with COVID: How Young People Use Digital Media to Manage Their Mental Health (Common Sense – Streamed live on Mar 17, 2021)
For families who are seeking ways to support the mental well being of their children, check out the following Elk Grove Unified School District resources: