Dark Secrets: Social media and its grip

Social media helps us keep up with the latest trends, and build connectivity and a network of friends. Whether it's Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter, teens especially are posting at all hours of the day. For some, these same social media platforms may do more harm than good. 

"My everyday life usually consists of me worrying about what other people think of me," says Marissa.

With pressure to get likes and feel accepted by their peers, teens often try to create the perfect image of themselves. When that doesn't work, their self-esteem is shattered.

"It makes me feel bad about myself, but I just have to move on. If I get too held up on it people think I'm obsessive and say it's no big deal," says Marissa.

Experts like Wykisha Mckinney with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, say the affects from social media on their mental health can be detrimental.

"Cyberbullying is a big issue and it has been an issue for many years, and it's a big contributor and factor to youth suicide and so social media only feeds that," says Wykisha.

A new Pew Research Center study shows 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. Their online activity has nearly doubled in just a few years with 45% of teens now saying they are online on a near-constant basis.

It's why Bob Sanborn, President and CEO of Children at Risk, says parents should be monitoring their child's social media accounts.

"Too many times parents thinks it's like a diary and don't want to intrude, nothing could be further from the truth. You need to intrude on the social media presence of your child. You need to know what's going on. You read their texts what they're doing online," says Bob Sanborn.

Often, families are unaware of their teen's true thoughts and feelings.

Cheryl Duncan says she had no idea her daughter was posting online about taking her own life.

"There was a pain that I think we'll never know because she never would tell me," says Cheryl.

Her daughter Ashley, hid her feelings from her parents, but not social media.

"They had cyber bullying sometimes on Facebook, had Facebook wars, and she would get sad,” says Cheryl.

Ashley's final post was a picture of a weapon with the caption "I finally got a gun."

The pain from her death is something Cheryl hopes no parent will ever have to go through.

"You need to talk with your children, follow their social media and get them to really try to find out what is the pain, what's making you feel the way you are,” says Cheryl.

And the pain they're feeling only worsens once they leave and go to college.

St. Thomas University counselor, Dr. Rose Signorello says many students face the same daily struggles of trying to portray a near perfect image online. 

"That really can influence they're sense of self-esteem, self-worth, am I good enough, those kinds of things are associated with anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Signorello.

Over the past 10 years, the number of adolescents and young adults struggling with emotional distress, depression and suicidal thoughts has gone up significantly.

A survey from the Association for University and College Counseling reports almost 60 percent of clients deal with anxiety, while more than 45 percent are battling stress or depression.

"They're getting so involved in their social network that it's really detrimental to them handling their everyday responsibilities and functioning," says Dr. Signorello.

While many are encouraged to take a break from social media, turn off notifications, control apps or take on a hobby, Dr. Signorello says it's important to remember this.

"We're all in this together and the responsibility is on all of us to encourage promote and accept what young people present to us and  listen to them carefully respond thoughtfully without judging and to make it ok to ask for help,” says Dr. Signorello.