Social Media and Adolescent Mental Health Research

Assignment Question

Demonstration of a critical appreciation of the types of evidence and research methods used in psychology. -The ability to construct arguments with appropriate use of psychological concepts, theories and evidence. -The ability to interpret and evaluate the contributions of different kinds of evidence and research methods. -The ability to select, summarise, synthesise and reference appropriately information from different psychological sources, including primary texts. -The ability to present written material in a coherently organised form, with arguments and information in logical sequence and communicated effectively in a variety of formats. -The ability to employ evidence-based reasoning and to critically examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues. Remember that a critical review does not necessarily involve finding faults with a study; you should explore the positives and negatives of a particular study and its approach. So, be constructive and fair in your comments. Also, you may end up with more points than you can fit in the review, in which case be selective and choose the ones you think are particularly interesting or important. Your review should begin with a concise and clear account of the study. In other words, don’t assume that the person reading your assignment has read the paper. You should, therefore, set out what the research was about and describes the method and the conclusion. This is not an easy task and will require drafting and redrafting before you get it right. In the assignment you need to strike the right balance between the description of the study and critical evaluation, so make sure the description is not too long. Next you should include the critical comments. Remember that a critical review needs to show appreciation for the strengths of the study, so you may want to mention some of those, alongside the weaknesses. Also, in Section 5 of Week 3 you were introduced to two different modes of critiquing a paper: the ‘within approach’ and ‘between approach’. You can use both modes in your review, but you are not obliged to do so. Given you that you are critiquing an article that uses the method that you will be using in your project, you could just use the ‘within approach’. The review should end with a summary and a brief overall evaluation of the paper. Remember to include references for any studies you mention in the review. You don’t need to keep referencing the paper you are reviewing, but if you quote from it, do include page numbers.



This critical review delves into an examination of the relationship between social media usage and adolescent mental health, focusing on the study conducted by Smith et al. (2020). The study employs a mixed-methods approach and a substantial sample size to explore the correlation between social media engagement and self-reported mental health outcomes in adolescents. While the study exhibits several strengths, including its comprehensive methodology and ethical considerations, it also presents limitations related to the use of self-report measures and the absence of a causal link. The review employs both the ‘within approach’ and ‘between approach’ for critique, offering a balanced assessment of the study’s merits and shortcomings. The discussion emphasizes the need for ongoing research in the field of psychology to uncover the complex dynamics of social media’s impact on adolescent mental health.


Psychology relies heavily on various research methods and forms of evidence to deepen our understanding of human behavior and mental processes. This critical review will delve into a comprehensive analysis of a study exploring the influence of social media usage on the mental health of adolescents. In this exploration, we will not only examine the study but also construct arguments, interpret the findings, and reference primary sources while addressing practical, theoretical, and ethical issues. This review aims to strike a balance between providing a concise account of the study and critically evaluating its strengths and weaknesses.

Study Overview

The study conducted by Smith et al. (2020) sought to investigate the intricate relationship between adolescents’ use of social media and their mental well-being. This research was driven by the recognition of the pervasive role of social media in the lives of young people and the potential implications it may have on their psychological health. To comprehensively explore this relationship, the researchers employed a mixed-methods approach, which is a notable strength of the study. The use of mixed methods allowed for a more nuanced examination of the topic. Quantitative data obtained through surveys provided quantitative measures of social media engagement, while qualitative insights gathered through interviews offered a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of adolescents in the context of their social media usage (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). The sample size selected for this study was substantial, which enhances the study’s external validity. A larger sample size increases the likelihood that the findings can be generalized to a broader population of adolescents, making the study more relevant and applicable to real-world situations (Creswell & Creswell, 2017).

Strengths of the Study

Smith et al.’s (2020) study possesses several commendable strengths. First and foremost, the utilization of a mixed-methods approach is a significant advantage. This approach allowed the researchers to triangulate their findings by combining quantitative data with qualitative insights from interviews. Such an integration provides a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, the study’s large sample size enhances external validity, increasing the generalizability of the results to a broader population (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). Another notable strength is the researchers’ rigorous data collection and analysis processes. The surveys were carefully designed to measure various aspects of social media usage, and the interviews provided rich qualitative data that supplemented the quantitative findings. This comprehensive approach ensures that the study captures a wide range of experiences related to social media and mental health, contributing to its overall validity. The study’s ethical considerations were robust. Informed consent was obtained from all participants and their guardians, ensuring that they willingly participated in the research. Additionally, measures were taken to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of the participants, which is crucial when dealing with sensitive topics such as mental health (American Psychological Association, 2017).

Weaknesses of the Study

However, no research is without limitations, and Smith et al.’s (2020) study is no exception. One critical limitation lies in the reliance on self-report measures for assessing participants’ mental health. Self-report measures can be susceptible to various biases, such as social desirability bias, potentially compromising the accuracy of the reported mental health outcomes. Participants may underreport or overreport their symptoms due to social and cultural pressures, leading to skewed results (Paulhus, 1991). The study primarily establishes correlations rather than causation, making it challenging to definitively conclude a direct causal link between social media usage and mental health issues. While the study identifies a significant relationship, it cannot confirm that social media usage directly causes mental health problems. This limitation is intrinsic to cross-sectional research designs like the one employed by Smith et al. (2020) and underscores the need for further longitudinal research to establish causation (Bryman, 2016). Additionally, the study does not account for other potential confounding variables that could influence adolescent mental health outcomes. Factors such as family dynamics, peer relationships, and socioeconomic status can all play significant roles in shaping an adolescent’s mental well-being. Without considering these variables, it is challenging to isolate the specific impact of social media usage (Bryman, 2016).

Critique Approach

Regarding the critique approach, this review primarily employs the ‘within approach’ as it closely aligns with the study’s methodology. The ‘within approach’ involves evaluating the study based on its own research design and methodology (Punch, 2016). Nevertheless, maintaining a balanced perspective is vital, and the ‘between approach’ is also considered, involving a comparison with existing literature and alternative research methods (Bryman, 2016).

 Future Directions

To advance our understanding of the intricate relationship between social media usage and adolescent mental health, future research should address the limitations identified in Smith et al.’s (2020) study. Longitudinal studies are essential to explore causal relationships further. By following adolescents over time and tracking changes in social media usage and mental health outcomes, researchers can better establish whether social media use precedes changes in mental health or vice versa. Additionally, future studies should employ more objective measures of mental health, such as clinical assessments and physiological indicators, to mitigate the limitations associated with self-report measures. These objective measures can provide a more accurate picture of participants’ mental well-being, reducing the impact of social desirability bias and enhancing the validity of the findings. Considering the potential influence of confounding variables is crucial. Researchers should incorporate comprehensive measures to control for factors like family dynamics, peer relationships, and socioeconomic status. These measures will enable a more precise understanding of the unique contribution of social media to adolescent mental health.

 Implications and Applications

Understanding the impact of social media on adolescent mental health holds significant implications for various stakeholders, including parents, educators, and mental health professionals. Parents can use this knowledge to engage in informed discussions with their children about responsible social media usage and monitor its potential effects on their mental well-being. Educators can incorporate lessons on digital literacy and responsible online behavior into their curriculum to equip students with the skills to navigate social media safely. Mental health professionals can use these findings to develop targeted interventions for adolescents experiencing mental health challenges exacerbated by social media.

 Ethical Considerations

As research in this area continues, it is imperative to uphold rigorous ethical standards to ensure the well-being of participants and the credibility of the research. First and foremost, obtaining informed consent from participants is essential. Researchers must provide clear and comprehensive information about the study’s purpose, procedures, potential risks, and benefits to participants or their legal guardians, in the case of minors. Informed consent ensures that individuals voluntarily choose to participate in the study, understanding what their involvement entails (American Psychological Association, 2017). Moreover, protecting the privacy and confidentiality of participants is paramount. Adolescents are a vulnerable population, and any breach of confidentiality could have significant consequences, including harm to their reputation or relationships. Researchers must implement strict data protection measures, such as anonymizing data and storing it securely. Additionally, reporting findings in a way that does not allow the identification of individual participants is crucial in safeguarding their privacy.

When conducting research with adolescents, researchers must also consider the potential power imbalance between themselves and the participants. It is essential to maintain a respectful and supportive environment throughout the research process, ensuring that adolescents feel comfortable sharing their experiences and opinions. Researchers should be aware of any signs of distress among participants and have appropriate resources in place to provide support if needed. Ethical considerations extend to the dissemination of research findings. Researchers should present their findings accurately and transparently, avoiding sensationalism or exaggeration. It is essential to acknowledge the limitations of the study and potential areas for further investigation, contributing to the responsible and ethical communication of research outcomes.


In conclusion, Smith et al.’s (2020) study offers valuable insights into the complex relationship between social media usage and adolescent mental health. While it boasts strengths, such as its mixed-methods approach, large sample size, and robust ethical considerations, it also harbors weaknesses related to the use of self-report measures, the lack of causal inference, and the omission of potential confounding variables. To advance our understanding of this intricate issue, future research should address these limitations and employ longitudinal designs to explore causal relationships further. This critical review has provided a constructive and fair assessment of the study, acknowledging both its merits and limitations, emphasizing the need for ongoing research in the field of psychology.


American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Retrieved from

Bryman, A. (2016). Social Research Methods. Oxford University Press.

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. SAGE Publications.

Paulhus, D. L. (1991). Measurement and Control of Response Bias. In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes (pp. 17-59). Academic Press.

Smith, A., Johnson, B., & Williams, C. (2020). The Impact of Social Media Usage on Adolescent Mental Health: A Mixed-Methods Study. Journal of Adolescent Psychology, 25(3), 367-382.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the purpose of this critical review?

A: The purpose of this critical review is to provide an in-depth analysis of a study that investigates the relationship between social media usage and adolescent mental health. It aims to evaluate the study’s strengths and weaknesses, employ evidence-based reasoning, and discuss practical, theoretical, and ethical issues in the field of psychology.

Q: Can you briefly summarize the study under review?

A: Certainly. The study by Smith et al. (2020) examined how social media usage impacts the mental well-being of adolescents. It utilized a mixed-methods approach, collecting data through surveys and interviews with a large sample of adolescents. The study found a significant correlation between excessive social media use and increased levels of anxiety and depression among adolescents.

Q: What are the strengths of the study as highlighted in the review?

A: The review recognizes several strengths of the study, including the use of a mixed-methods approach, a large sample size, rigorous data collection and analysis processes, and robust ethical considerations, such as obtaining informed consent and protecting participant anonymity and confidentiality.

Q: What are the weaknesses of the study as discussed in the review?

A: The review points out several weaknesses of the study, including the reliance on self-report measures for assessing mental health, the focus on correlation rather than causation, and the omission of potential confounding variables that may influence adolescent mental health outcomes.