A new study says the explosion in social media may be linked with a rise in teen suicides in the US.
An increase in suicide rates among US teens occurred at the same time social media use surged and a new analysis suggests there may be a link.
Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study suggests that one factor could be rising social media use.
Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and social media posts depicting "perfect" lives may be taking a toll on teens' mental health, researchers say.
"After hours of scrolling through Instagram feeds, I just feel worse about myself because I feel left out," said Caitlin Hearty, a 17-year-old US high school student.
"No one posts the bad things they're going through," said Chloe Schilling, also 17, who helped with a campaign in which hundreds of teens agreed not to use the internet or social media for one month.
The study's authors looked at CDC suicide reports from 2009-15 and results of two surveys given to US high school students to measure attitudes, behaviors and interests.
About half a million teens ages 13 to 18 were involved, and they were asked about use of electronic devices, social media, print media, television and time spent with friends.
Questions about mood included frequency of feeling hopeless and considering or attempting suicide.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
"We need to stop thinking of smartphones as harmless," said study author Jean Twenge.
"There's a tendency to say, 'Oh, teens are just communicating with their friends.' Monitoring kids' use of smartphones and social media is important, and so is setting reasonable limits, she said.
Dr. Victor Strasburger, a teen medicine specialist at the University of New Mexico, said the study only implies a connection between teen suicides, depression and social media.
He said that with its immediacy, anonymity, and potential for bullying, social media has a unique potential for causing real harm.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.
Local Aboriginal Medical Service details available from www.bettertoknow.org.au/AMS