Social Media: The Real Cause of Teen Mental Health Problems

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 5, 2024

I read an article in a large online publication, (Bari Weiss, TFP, Aug 30, 2023) where the editors have an unusual interest in speaking the truth—not politics—about a number of subjects, including the family.

The editor wrote:

American teenagers are not having a good time. They’re not driving. They are depressed, anxious, and lonely. Whether social media is the cause or the catalyst is a subject of ongoing and intense debate.”

And then she introduced two essays, submitted by teenagers.

Social Media and Mental Health

The first essay was written by Caleb Silverberg, 17:

"During the pandemic, I became a slave to screens. Online classes were followed by scrolling Instagram or playing Fortnite for hours, ignoring hunger pangs while I immersed myself in a world of pixels.

"My Saturdays were pretty grim: I’d wake up and drag myself to the couch where my Xbox had been waiting for me all night long. The closed shades blocked the beaming sun and any hope of enjoying it—swimming in the ocean, biking in the mountains, hiking with my dogs. At age 15, I looked in the mirror and saw a shell of myself. My face was pale. My eyes were hollow.

"Screen addictions like mine are everywhere today. Excessive screen time is associated with ADHD and depression, and I’ve seen that firsthand."

How Social Media Affects Mental Health

The second essay was written by 16-year-old Isabel Hogben:

"I was ten years old when I watched porn for the first time, stumbling across it by accident and returning out of curiosity.

"Where was my mother? In the next room, fussing about the fruits and vegetables I would eat.

"The images I saw were not just sexual. They were horrible, disgusting, unthinkably violent, and degrading." (And she described some of what she saw in terms I don’t care to burden your minds with.)

"My peers are seeing all this stuff, and they’re suffering from an addiction to what many call “the new drug.” Porn is the disastrous replacement for intimacy among my anxiety-ridden generation.

"And our young brains are being artificially stimulated in ways that twist our still-growing adolescent brains.

"A recent Cambridge University study shows that porn’s effects on the brain are neurochemically identical to drug addiction. It’s as much a dangerous substance as illicit drugs. Porn is an addictive substance, but my peers think it’s harmless.”

Now, let’s re-read what the editor said at the beginning of the article, referring to the unhappiness of teenagers:

“Whether social media is the cause or the catalyst is a subject of ongoing and intense debate.”

I find it so very alarming that the smartest people in the land—psychologists, pediatricians, government officials, reporters, editors, university professors—freely and abundantly identify the serious problems of our children, but they are utterly, blindly CLUELESS about what could be done about these problems. Or they name solutions that have been tried over and over again, with no positive effect.

Social Media and Teens: The Real Solution

And nobody is addressing the real problem or the real solution.

The cause of screen and porn addiction is simple but so frightening that we consistently refuse to address it anywhere. Children become addicted to substances or behaviors only because they’re in emotional pain.

But what is the source of the pain? Not complicated. More than anything, children want to feel loved unconditionally—by us as parents—which means to be loved without any disappointment or irritation.

But rarely do they get that, which is unbearably painful to a child. Then they use anything—screens, porn, cutting, anger, and much more—that will diminish the pain.

The solution comes not from schools, programs, or the government.

The answer is to teach parents how to give their children that unconditional love. The answer is not a mystery.

Find it at

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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