Youth Mental Health and Social Media Usage

Youth mental health in New York City has been declining for more than a decade. In 2021, 38% of the city’s high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless in the past year that they gave up their usual activities, compared with 27% in 2011. Rates of suicidal ideation also increased, with almost one in 10 NYC high schoolers reporting a suicide attempt in the past year in 2021.

At the same time, social media usage increased. Research shows that social media can distort body image, damage self-esteem and invite addiction.

NYC wants to ensure that social media platforms are safe for young people and to empower them, their caregivers and their communities to use social media in ways that promote well-being and limit unsafe exposure.

NYC’s Framework for Action

NYC’s Framework for Action (PDF) is a three-part strategy to bring about social media platform reform and provide support to youth and families by:

  • Holding social media companies accountable for making their platforms safer for young people.
  • Educating young people and their caregivers, teachers and doctors on healthy social media use.
  • Researching the impacts of social media on NYC youth.

The plan is a result of a convening of experts and youth hosted by the NYC Health Department to discuss the best way to address this crisis. Over 150 advocates, researchers, mental health providers, technologists, caregivers and youth worked together to make recommendations on how adults can better support young people.

Guidance for Parents and Organizations

Parents, caregivers and leaders of youth-serving organizations can reduce the harm social media has on young people by:

  • Supporting social media skill development.
  • Providing opportunities for young people to connect offline.
  • Encouraging young people to advocate for changes they would like to be, such as through reaching out to the Mayor or their other elected officials.

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Additional Resources

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