Young people who spend extended periods on social media platforms such as TikTok or Facebook often experience symptoms such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and sleep disorders. Despite initially seeking entertainment and relaxation in the cyber world, younger individuals are likelier to develop these conditions. Experts are taking note of this phenomenon and its impact on mental health.
Tomáš Kvapilík, a psychotherapist who serves as the expert advisor for the educational campaign “I am good,” launched recently, has observed people in his practice who spend up to eight hours in bed without eating while scrolling through social media platforms. “They feel worse and lost in their lives,” he said. The campaign aims to raise awareness and provide preventive measures to young people who frequent social media platforms.
Kvapilík referred to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NÚDZ), which indicated a rise from 20% to 33% in the number of people with mental health problems between 2017 and 2020. “This means that one in three Czechs today suffers from mental problems. The latest data is unavailable, but the trend shows a shocking increase. Social media is likely to be a contributing factor,” said the psychotherapist.
Jana Klusáková, who monitors the impact of social media on people’s mental health at the nonprofit organization Replug.me, supports Kvapilík’s observations. “Our data shows that social media significantly impacts deteriorating mental health. Prevention needs to be strengthened considerably,” she said. According to Klusáková, younger people suffer the most from prolonged internet use.
“We are raising a generation of young people who cannot talk about their emotions and depend on the online world. They feel like they are missing out when they’re not online, and this behavior leads to mental problems. They experience sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and self-harm,” she added.
“It’s a paradox. We go to social media to contact people but leave feeling lonely. We go there for fun and leave feeling destroyed and frustrated,” Klusáková said. A survey commissioned by Replug.me found that 80% of parents do not talk to their children about the online world. “The digital gap between children and adults is enormous. The vast majority of parents with children do not discuss such critical issues as how social media affects our lives,” she added.
Klusáková believes parents must take an interest in their children’s online activities, and this is not limited to the most egregious cases, such as sexual predators. She recommends engaging in conversations with their children about their online experiences, teaching them to be mindful of their time spent on social media, and encouraging them to seek alternative activities to promote their well-being. “We need to be aware of the impact of social media on mental health and take action to address it. As with addictive behavior, balance is the key,” she concluded.