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By Trisha Prabhu

Me, thinking to myself late last week, “It’s May…which means it’s Mental Health Awareness Month!” This is definitely something I have to cover on Ask Trish.

Hi there, and welcome back to another week of Ask Trish! I hope you’re all well and having a wonderful start to May.

With May comes sunshine, flowers, and…Mental Health Awareness Month! That’s right, it’s one of my favorite months of the year! Mental Health Awareness Month (celebrated in the US, but also globally) is an incredible opportunity to raise awareness about improving our mental health (especially youth mental health!) and adopt practices that are better for our body and mind. In that vein, this week, I thought I’d share a little bit about i) current perspectives on the internet/social media and its effects on youth mental health — spoiler alert, it’s complicated! — and ii) share some digital practices you all can adopt to support your mental health, this month and always. You’ll notice that there are just a few…and that’s because I actually want you to take some time to give all of these practices a try. Small steps can produce big change!

But first, let’s chat about social media/the internet and mental health. I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s a lot of talk about whether the digital world is good or bad for youth mental health. In fact, researchers have seen mixed results when examining whether social media is linked to negative mental health symptoms. Some research, like recent research out of MIT, “found a significant link between the presence of Facebook and a deterioration in mental health among college students.” Another study found that “adolescents who spent more than 3 hours per day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety.” But other research reports no link at all. And as many researchers point out, the empirical evidence base is lacking or often not necessarily indicative of causality…meaning that there is a link, but there’s no way to guarantee that one thing, e.g., social media, caused another thing, e.g., poor mental health. There’s also some evidence that social media offers youth some benefits, like the ability to explore their identity and make new friends. So, why, then, is there so much worry? Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, put it best in his Advisory on social media and youth mental health: “we cannot conclude social media is sufficiently safe for children and adolescents.” There is a lot of evidence — and many compelling theories — that it is causing harm. (The most recent one is Jonathan Haidt’s The Anxious Generation, which I’m currently reading. It’s fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read it too!) Moreover, we often do not wait for causal evidence to take action. (Indeed, in our quest for “proof,” we don’t want more youth to suffer!) And given the amount of time young people spend on social media — per the latest research, it’s 3.5 hours a day (I know!!) — concerns about harms have to be taken seriously.

So how do we ensure that social media supports youth mental health? Well, a lot of that work is for activists (like me! And I hope you’ll join in — your voice is needed!), policymakers, and technology companies to do. But there are also everyday practices that you can implement to build a better relationship with your device/social media and hopefully, have a more positive experience online. Here are a few I’d suggest you consider this month:

1. Put your phone away at least an hour before bed. Research suggests that using your phone right before bed makes for worse sleep. So ditch the phone…and enjoy some zzzzs!

2. Set some Screen Time limits on your phone, particularly for certain social media apps. If you find yourself scrolling and tapping to no end — and want more concrete boundaries — you can set them yourself! This can be a great way to establish a healthier relationship with your phone.

3. Change your settings so you can’t see like counts. Honestly, who even cares about likes any more? Post what makes you feel good!

4. Take a day off from your phone. Trust me, you’ll feel amazing!

5. Consider making any social media accounts private. Doing so will help you enforce digital boundaries that can make you feel more secure and in control online. And that’s what you deserve!

I hope you take these practices into May, and into the rest of your 2024! Here’s to better mental health, offline and online. And now, before I sign off…you already know what’s up! I’d like to make my usual plug to all of you to share any of your thoughts, questions, or concerns about the internet here. Your perspective is tremendously important — I promise you, fellow youth and adults alike want to hear what’s on your mind! So submit away! (And remember, anything you’re wondering about is valid. There are no “dumb” or “stupid” questions.) I can’t wait to hear from you. Thank you so much in advance for contributing to Ask Trish!

Have a great week,



It’s #mentalhealthawarenessmonth 🧠 This week, Trish dives into the links between the Internet/social media and youth mental health and offers up some digital practices you can adopt to support your mental health. Check out the post now ⬆️

♬ original sound – Ask Trish

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