Research has rarely examined how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect teens' social media engagement and psychological wellbeing, and even less research has compared the difference between teens with and without mental health concerns. We collected and analyzed weekly data from January to December 2020 from teens in four Reddit communities (subreddits), including teens in r/Teenagers and teens who participated in three mental health subreddits (r/Depression, r/Anxiety, and r/SuicideWatch). The results showed that teens' weekly subreddit participation, posting/commenting frequency, and emotion expression were related to significant pandemic events. Teen Redditors on r/Teenagers had a higher posting/commenting frequency but lower negative emotion than teen Redditors on the three mental health subreddits. When comparing posts/comments on r/Teenagers, teens who ever visited one of the three mental health subreddits posted/commented twice as frequently as teens who did not, but their emotion expression was similar. The results from the Interrupted Time Series Analysis (ITSA) indicated that both teens with and without mental health concerns reversed the trend in posting frequency and negative emotion from declining to increasing right after the pandemic outbreak, and teens with mental health concerns had a more rapidly increasing trend in posting/commenting. The findings suggest that teens' social media engagement and emotion expression reflect the pandemic evolution. Teens with mental health concerns are more likely to reveal their emotions on specialized mental health subreddits rather than on the general r/Teenagers subreddit. In addition, the findings indicated that teens with mental health concerns had a strong social interaction desire that various barriers in the real world may inhibit. The findings call for more attention to understand the pandemic's influence on teens by monitoring and analyzing social media data and offering adequate support to teens regarding their mental health wellbeing.
Can you please help me summarize this in a FEW short sentences?