How does social media affect mental health? It's complicated.

Whether or not social media affects mental health, and to what degree, has long been up for debate. While some contend that social media connects the world, others argue that it feeds a culture of FOMO (fear of missing out) and an endless desire for affirmations. Experts have raised concerns about how social media use activates the reward circuits in the brain, which can cause addiction. These platforms have even been associated with anxiety and depression.

Children and adolescents, especially those with a history of trauma, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of social media.

We spoke with Dr. Adam Brown, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, to discuss his concerns about social media’s impact on young, developing, brains.

What are some of the negative effects of social media?

Brown says that there are positive and negative effects of social media, but there are some things that really concern him – in particular, the seemingly endless access to information.

“It used to be that parents could kind of filter what’s going on in the world and what they think their kids are ready to hear and ideally have those conversations with their children, so they could provide support and explanation.” adds Brown. “But now, people are exposed to everything all the time and kids may not be prepared for what they’re seeing and hearing.”

For those with a history of trauma, social media can lead to very serious issues. “ They can easily be triggered by what they’re seeing and hearing on social media. And it really worries me, the extent to which people may be exposed to things that are triggering them without anyone else around to know or see or help.”

Then there’s the problem of misinformation. “What they’re seeing and hearing may not even be accurate – who knows what they’re being exposed to on the internet,” Brown explains.

How does social media affect teenagers mental health?

Social media is more of a risk to adolescents than adults may realize, a 2012 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found. Some teenagers may face cyberbullying or develop depression. Some studies have also found some links between anxiety and sleep-deprivation specifically for teens.

It also has the potential to create body image issues. A survey of 1,500 young people by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom found that young girls compared themselves to unrealistic photos of “perfect girls” that may actually be photo-shopped.

Are there any positive effects on mental health?

Most studies have shown a strong relationship between social media and adverse mental health states like anxiety and depression. However, there have been some reported benefits. A recent review “indicated that some uses of social media, such as suicide prevention and authentic self-presentation, are associated with mental well-being in adolescents.”

Still, Brown contends that those who are in need of mental health help should still seek trained professionals. “I worry, with some of these online resources, that you don’t know exactly the training is of the person you are working with. I would feel much more comfortable with a traumatized person going to somebody who specializes in (the area they need help with).”

He does recommend the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a federally funded program with online resources, if people are more comfortable seeking help are online.

Contributing: Asha Davis and Erin Burnett

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How does social media affect mental health? Pros and cons explained.