Classroom Technology

What Girls Say Social Media Is Doing to Their Sleep and Mental Health

By Alyson Klein — March 30, 2023 3 min read
Conceptual image of a young person engaged in social media.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Many teen girls say they spend much more time on social media—especially TikTok—than they intend to, interfering with their sleep, and in some cases their mental health, according to a survey released March 30 by Common Sense Media, a research and advocacy organization that studies the impact of technology on young people.

Almost half of teenage girls surveyed said they are addicted to TikTok or spend more time on the social media video platform than they intend to at least once a week. About a third of girls said the same of Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.

“Teens’ relationships with social media are complicated. They know that it isn’t always the best for them, but it plays a huge role in how they experience the world and build and support their relationships,” said James Steyer, the CEO and founder of Common Sense, in a statement included with the report. “It’s time to center youth voices when we discuss the connections between social media and mental health.”

I felt like my mental health was not doing well because I was too commonly comparing myself to others

On average, teen girls who use TikTok spend more than two and a half hours a day on the platform, and those who use YouTube spend a similar amount of time; for Snapchat users, it’s about two hours; and for Instagram users, it’s about 90 minutes a day.

“I felt the app wasted my time, and it just made me more predisposed to get sucked into my phone (Snap, TikTok, etc.) for prolonged periods of time,” one 15-year-old Snapchat user told researchers.

The survey of nearly 1,400 girls ages 11 to 15 was conducted in November and December of last year.

One in four girls say that TikTok interferes with their sleep at least once a week, while nearly a quarter say it gets in the way of sleep daily. By comparison, a little less than a third of girls surveyed said that Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube each interfere with sleep at least once a week.

Overall, girls have a mixed view of social media’s impact on their lives. For instance, 43 percent of girls feel that TikTok is a generally positive experience, while a little over a quarter say it’s mostly negative. About a quarter of teens say that Snapchat is a mostly negative force, while 19 percent said the same of Instagram. By contrast, 38 percent of teens see Instagram as generally positive, while 32 percent say the same of Snapchat.

What’s more, among girls with symptoms of moderate or severe depression, about 75 percent of those who use Instagram and 69 percent who use TikTok report finding “problematic suicide related content” at least once a month on these platforms.

“I felt like my mental health was not doing well because I was too commonly comparing myself to others,” a 13-year-old TikTok user told researchers.

Though more than half of teens reported finding mental health resources on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube, a higher percentage of teens—63 percent—found mental health resources in “real life” than on any social media platform.

Should social media platforms be held accountable for damage to student mental health?

The report comes as lawmakers are increasingly making connections between students’ worsening mental health and their preoccupation with social media.

Seattle Public Schools, which educates over 50,000 students, is suing the companies that own TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, claiming these platforms are a major force behind a decline in student well-being.

Social media companies have designed addictive products that keep teens scrolling and swiping, even as it is detrimental to their well-being, the district contends. Seattle has had to hire additional personnel to address the crisis this has created among students. In response, social media companies have said they are making improvements to their services to protect children.

At the same time, Congress and the Biden administration are considering banning TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, largely because of national security concerns. Still, the platform’s impact on teen mental health was a recurring theme of a recent hearing at which Shou Chew, TikTok’s CEO, testified.

“The more time that middle and high schoolers spend on social media, the evidence is the more likely they are to experience depression and anxiety,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., during the hearing.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology What Educators Need to Know About AI’s Impact on Black Students
Four experts weigh the balance between providing access to AI and protecting students from its dangers.
3 min read
Teacher Helping Female Pupil Line Of High School Students Working at Screens In Computer Class
Classroom Technology Q&A Google Executive: What AI Can and Can't Do for Teachers
Jennie Magiera, Google's head of education impact, discusses the role AI should have in K-12 education.
8 min read
Close-up stock photograph showing a touchscreen monitor with a woman’s hand looking at responses being asked by an AI chatbot.
Classroom Technology What Drones Are Doing to Deliver Better Student Engagement
Working with drones can motivate students, as well as teach skills like coding, collaboration, and problem-solving.
2 min read
The view over the shoulder of a high school student while he is holding a drone with the camera image showing on a laptop sitting on a nearby chair.
Classroom Technology 3 Tips for Using Tech to Meet All Students' Needs
Technology is everywhere in most classrooms, but equitable access to it for all students still isn’t a reality.
2 min read
Photo of elementary school students using laptops in class.