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Description: You cannot have missed the increasing level of discussion and concern regarding the possible impacts of social media use on the mental health of teens and youth in recent years. The available new coverage of this topic ranges widely from articles that seek out and dive into recent, population level research on social media use and teen mental health to articles that do not cover research in much depth but, instead, focus upon reactions such as references to TikTok as “digital fentanyl”. Do you think you have a pretty good idea of what differences you would see in article content as you moved along this dimension of reporting on the potential dangers of social media? Well, how about a pop quiz regarding that understanding? Read the article linked below and decide which end of the above-described continuum or coverage of this topic you believe it is closest to. Oh, and, of course, think about what arguments you would use in your answer if this were an essay question rather than a one or the other type of question.

Source: Why experts worry TikTok could add to mental health crisis among US teens, Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN Business.

Date: January 11, 2023

Image by Sayyid96 from Pixabay

Article Link: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/11/tech/tiktok-teen-mental-health

So, what was your verdict? I think my opening quote about digital fentanyl in my opening paragraph shows clearly which end of the dimension this article sits closest to. Other gems include “psychologists say,” “can have a positive impact,” “the majority of teens say” to note a few, all with no or only indirectly cited research support. Closing an article with a title suggesting it was going to look at research into negative impacts of social media with a quite from an individual who said they quit their job to work on their TikTok account as a positive career move is confusing at best. Of course, more research is needed but there IS much more research out there and while it has not yet sorted out what is going on with social media perhaps better to close with something like more (better) journalism is needed!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of research were described (or perhaps just hinted at) in the linked article and what  else would you like to know about it in order o properly (critically) evaluate its contribution to the debate regarding social media mental health impacts?
  2. Based just on the article and its contents what conclusion, if any, might you draw regarding the role of social media platforms like TikTok on teen mental health?
  3. Upon reflection, what do you think is a clear, fair statement about what the article is arguing for?

References (Read Further):

Pew Research Center (2022) Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022. Link

Duffy, M. E., Twenge, J. M., & Joiner, T. E. (2019). Trends in mood and anxiety symptoms and suicide-related outcomes among US undergraduates, 2007–2018: Evidence from two national surveys. Journal of Adolescent Health, 65(5), 590-598. Link

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17. Link

Heffer, T., Good, M., Daly, O., MacDonell, E., & Willoughby, T. (2019). The longitudinal association between social-media use and depressive symptoms among adolescents and young adults: An empirical reply to Twenge et al.(2018). Clinical Psychological Science, 7(3), 462-470. Link

Montag, C., Yang, H., & Elhai, J. D. (2021). On the psychology of TikTok use: A first glimpse from empirical findings. Frontiers in public health, 9, 641673. Link

McCashin, D., & Murphy, C. M. (2022). Using TikTok for public and youth mental health–A systematic review and content analysis. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13591045221106608. Link