The Internet and Teen Mental Health

UK’s Parent Zone is a great resource for parents trying to navigate the internet with their kids. In their words:

“We help families deal with the many difficulties that are thrown up by the pace of technological change, providing them with the knowledge to make the most of the digital age, creatively and confidently.”

That’s a tall order but they are certainly doing their part.

A new report from them titled “The Perfect Generation” looks at the internet’s impact on teen mental health, and it is packed full of interesting findings. The survey polled UK teachers and students, but we have no doubt that the results are relevant to teens in the entire developed world.

Is the internet bad for teen mental health?

  • 28% of teen respondents either agree or strongly agree (whereas 40% of teachers believe that the internet is bad for teen mental health)
  • 40% neither agree nor disagree
  • 32% disagree or strongly disagree

That is closer than it should be, we think.

Is internet activity a good idea when you’re upset?

  • 48% say it’s mostly good
  • 20% say it’s mostly bad

Of those who say it’s a good idea, 75% say the internet makes them happier and 66% say that it makes them more relaxed.

When respondents are upset or have a problem:

  • 34% talk to a parent first
  • 27% talk to a friend
  • 27% look online for help

Looking at mental health issues specifically:

  • Over half of 13-20-year-olds surveyed have seen someone talk about suicide online
  • 61% of young people have seen someone online talk about self-harm
  • 91% of teachers believe the frequency of mental health issues among pupils is increasing

While the internet isn’t the likely direct cause of mental health issues, it can certainly elicit a number of negative feelings, as illustrated by the chart below.

teen internet mental health
I don’t know about you, but when I see someone online talking about suicide or self-harm, it makes me sad. The internet is nearly ubiquitous, and is here to stay. We need to develop tools to deal with teens suffering from mental health issues who are also internet users. Talking to teens is a great first step.




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