Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Dr. Richard Booth

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Kim Jackson



Background: The development of social media has altered the lives of individuals worldwide enabling people to connect and share opinions, content, and even life milestones with one another. Further, the use of social media platforms has significantly increased over the past decade, particularly popular among youth. To date, it is estimated that 86% of Ontario youth use social media on a daily, and more than half of today’s youth report utilizing social media platforms multiple times per day. With the rise of social media among youth, questions have begun to emerge whether the use of these communication technologies are associated with increasing mental health concerns.

Objectives: Two objectives were undertaken in this thesis: (1) completion of a scoping review; and, (2) presentation of a proposed study to explore the relationship between social media, and self-reported mental health among youth users.

Methods: A scoping literature review guided by the Arksey and O’Malley framework was used to complete a synthesis of relevant literature available on this topic. For the proposed study, a protocol and analysis plan to examine the secondary data arising from Cycle 27 of the Global Social Survey (Statistics Canada) is proposed. The Social-Ecological Model is presented as the theoretical framework to guide the proposed study.

Results: Among the twenty articles examined for the purpose of this scoping review, a total of seven articles met the predetermined inclusion criteria. The available literature was examined and a range of themes related to youth mental health and social media use were generated.

Conclusion: Understanding the implications of social media use on the mental health of the youth who use it is essential to improving and maintaining health and well-being of youth. The results yielded from this literature review indicate that youth users may not fully understand the implications these new forms of technology have on their mental health and well-being. This proposed study provides further potential implications for policy development related to the use of social media, but also from a health literacy perspective related to youth, parents, and the general population in terms of social media use and mental health and well-being.

Keywords: Social media; social media use; youth; mental health; mental well-being

Summary for Lay Audience

The use of social media has revolutionized daily life. This technology has provided many opportunities to optimize care delivery within health and social systems, enhance communication, and reduce obstacles due to physical and geographical distance. For many of today’s youth who have grown up in the technological age, they have never known a world without social media and the ability to share their thoughts, content, and experiences online. In fact, Ontario youth report that over 85% use social media on a daily basis (if not more often) (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2015). Since the conception of social media just over a decade ago, there is no doubt it has dramatically transformed the way in which we interact with one another.

During the last 10 to 15 years the rates of youth mental illness in the province of Ontario (and across Canada) has also risen dramatically. In fact, youth presenting to emergency departments with mental health related concerns has risen over 35% (Gill et al, 2017). With over 80% of adulthood mental health disorders stemming from childhood (Children’s Mental Health Ontario [CMHO], 2020), and 1 in 3 Canadians affected by mental health in their lifetime (Statistics Canada, 2019), it is imperative that factors that may affect the mental health of youth be further explored, including the use of social media in youths’ daily lives.

This dissertation outlines the concepts of social media use and mental health as it relates to youth in Ontario, as well as current available literature in this area, and a proposed research project to further delve into this complex social and health issue.