Social Media and It's Impact on Girls

Social Media and It's Impact on Girls

One in 3 adolescents report using social media until midnight or later. On average (2021), youth in grades 8 and 10 use social media 3.5 hours daily, with 25% online more than 5 hours and 1 in 7 online more than 7 hours daily. One-third of adolescent girls reporting feeling “addicted” to social media.

This is concerning because from age 10 to 19, youth experience significant brain development. This is when well-being fluctuates greatly, risk-taking behaviors become more frequent, and mental health challenges including depression and anxiety typically emerge. During these years, the brain is most susceptible to peer and social pressures, comparison with others, and concern for the opinion of friends and family. Adolescents, particularly girls, are particularly vulnerable to the emotional nature of various types of social media.

Science has found that adolescent social media use is a predictor of decreased life satisfaction, particularly for girls ages 11-13 (boys 14-15). Excessive use has been liked to attention problems including ADHD, and feelings of exclusion and isolation. Nearly half (46%) of adolescent girls ages 13-17 say that social media makes them “feel worse” about their bodies and appearance. In addition to increasing depression and anxiety, girls experience eating disorders, poor sleep, and self-harming behaviors.

Unfortunately, exposure to specific content increases the chance that a young person may view self-harm acts, cutting, and attempted suicides. About 2/3 of adolescents report “often” or “sometimes” being exposed to hate-based content, particularly girls of color and LGBTQ youth. Sixty percent (60% of girls report being contacted by a stranger in ways that make them uncomfortable while they are online.

We’ve long known that the expanding use of social media has been problematic for youth, but the Surgeon General’s Advisory creates alarm calling for immediate action. The report recommends policymakers and technology companies take specific actions, and recommendations for parents and caregivers include:

  • Create a family media plan, including expectations and boundaries (Family Media Plan from
  • Encourage children to develop more in-person friendships.
  • Create tech-free zones, including mealtimes and social gatherings (see the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for media use).
  • Model responsible social media behavior, including when and how parents share information or content about their children.
  • Teach children about technology and when they are an appropriate age, empower them to be responsible online (Health Advisory on Social Media Use in Adolescence from the American Psychological Association).
  • Report online abuse, exploitation, and cyberbullying to local law enforcement, Cyber Tipline, or Take it Down.
  • Establish shared norms and practices with other parents to simplify social media rules.