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Mental health issues among teens have been rising for more than a decade, and some experts wonder how much social media use is to blame. If you’re a parent questioning if—and how—you should monitor the way your teenager uses social media, you’re not alone.

In the spring of 2023, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, released an advisory called Social Media and Youth Mental Health, in which he says there is growing evidence that social media is causing harm to young people’s mental health. Soon after, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued its own health advisory.

The issue is complicated, however. While there are indicators that it can have a profound risk of harm to teens (more on that below), social media use aimed at making healthy connections with others may actually be beneficial to some people. Dr. Murthy’s report indicates that more research is needed to fully understand the impact of social media. For parents, this means there are no easy answers.

“The issues we face now with social media are similar to those we faced when television came out,” says Linda Mayes, MD, chair of the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC). She explains that, as with TV watching, there are pros and cons to social media for young people. “So, how do we help parents filter out the parts that may be detrimental?”

Below, Dr. Mayes and YCSC’s Yann Poncin, MD, a child psychiatrist, offer advice for parents trying to help their teenagers use social media in a positive way.

But first, some background.

By Bury