Social Media and Mental Health in Youth During COVID-19: A Narrative Review

Social Media and Mental Health in Youth During COVID-19: A Narrative Review

Tiffany Field, PhD

University of Miami/Miller School of Medicine and Fielding Graduate University

Social media effects on youth during COVID-19 have been studied in the context of excessive use and mental health. Although some positive effects have been reported including connecting and social support, the COVID-19 research has typically noted negative effects including sedentary behavior, limited social interaction, depression and anxiety. This narrative review of eighteen COVID-19 publications on social media effects on youth includes sections on prevalence, on effects and on mediators/moderators of those effects. The prevalence of social media use by youth during COVID-19 has varied between 5% and 97% across 22 countries as a function of location, quarantine/lockdown, and type of social media, although the overall prevalence has significantly increased by 27% during the pandemic and has averaged 38% across studies. The most popular social media have been Facebook, What’s App, Instagram and Twitter. The prevalence of mental health symptoms has also varied across countries but has averaged 27% for anxiety, 34% for depression and 35% for stress. Mediators for the relationships between excessive social media and mental health symptoms have included rumination, psychological capital, sense of control and active use and moderators have included mindfulness, academic burnout and “flow”. Limitations of this literature are its sampling of self-reports from university students via cross-sectional surveys and confounding variables including pre-existing psychopathology, lockdown conditions, and sedentary behavior. Research is needed on the specific reasons for excessive social media use (e. g. information seeking, social interaction and escape from negative feelings including loneliness and touch deprivation) to inform intervention protocols for reducing this addictive behavior and its negative consequences on mental health symptoms in youth.

Keywords: Social media use, mental health, youth, COVID-19

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How to cite this article:
Tiffany Field. Social Media and Mental Health in Youth During COVID-19: A Narrative Review. International Journal of Psychological Research and Reviews, 2021,4:54. DOI: 10.28933/ijprr-2021-08-2905


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