Betty Irene Moore Fellow presents at South by Southwest (SXSW)
Panel discusses impacts of social media on teen mental health
March 16, 2023
Promoting teenage mental health and establishing related support programs is one of Betty Irene Moore Fellow Dawn Bounds’ passions. She shared her research and thoughts on the impact of social media on teenage mental health March 13 at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Each year, the annual conference and festival brings together people from various industries, including music, film, technology and interactive media.
Bounds, a 2022 cohort fellow and assistant professor at the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, was one of four panelists who discussed social media and the youth mental health crisis in the United States during the “How Teens Really Feel About Social Media” panel discussion. While social media can build community, Bounds discussed how it can also intensify feelings of anxiety and depression in teenagers.
“Social media can promote connection and belonging among teens, but it can also exacerbate feelings of depression, disturb sleep, and expose teens to harmful content and potentially harmful people,” Bounds said. “Teens are constantly exposed to unrealistic views of other people’s lives on social media and it takes a toll on their self-confidence.”
Panelists discussed steps the technology industry can take to make social media a safer environment for teenagers and their mental health, such as increasing transparency of research findings about the unintended consequences of overuse. Studies also show the algorithmically driven content on social media feeds is customized to each user’s engagement patterns, potentially leading vulnerable teens into a harmful cycle of negative social comparison. The panelists discussed the need to install guardrails to protect teens from these harms.
Bounds said it was exciting to share her research and discuss a topic she is passionate about at an event that has become such a cultural phenomenon.
“Being able to share this information and potentially affect change on such an important topic in our society is a huge honor. Raising awareness in public-facing audiences filled with young people who are activating for change and parents looking for answers is aligned with my mission as a researcher,” Bounds said.
Heather M. Young, fellowship national program director, said it is thrilling to see a Betty Irene Moore Fellow present at an event reaching diverse audiences and known for its ability to foster collaboration and elevate innovative ideas.
“By presenting at the South by Southwest conference, Dr. Bounds has unleashed her research and ideas into a creative and dynamic ecosystem. This experience will hopefully create a ripple effect that spreads far beyond the event and inspires and empowers people to make a difference across industry sectors and in their communities to advance teen mental health through optimal social media use,” Young said.