Innovation & technology

Safer Internet Day 2021: Social media and mental health seen by young artists

Has social media or the Internet ever made you feel stressed, envious, lonely or anxious? It may be hard to admit experiencing these feelings, but know that you’re not alone.

Caitlyn, Arianna, Mic, BrianaDarren and Tookie, six young people from the United States, designed creative work and proposed insightful solutions about how to make the Internet and social media a safer place for young people as part of an internship between UNICEF and the Center for Community Alternatives and The Kite.

Over the course of three months, they met weekly to discuss topics such as the Sustainable Development Goals, social media, the Internet, and the mental health of youth. "These topics are particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Isabel Geddes, a 22-year-old UNICEF intern from New York City who worked with this group.

"Our lives are more dependent on the Internet and social media than ever and the negative effects of this dependence, including unlimited access to bad news and misinformation, have been magnified for young people."

You can navigate through their work by clicking on their names in each tab, or keep scrolling down.

You can also check out this guide with UNICEF's advice on how to protect yourself online and prioritise your mental health.




Caitlyn, 21

"I'm Caitlyn Pritchard, a 21-year-old artist from Brooklyn, New York. My artwork represents things that can’t be said, only felt or experienced. Within my art, lies deep meanings and its crucial details speak to viewers in personal volumes.  

I personally think if young people were to collectively discuss things with each other about how the internet affects them, the dangers can be lessened, which can create a better future inside and outside the internet."

Check out some of Caitlyn's artworks on social media and mental health:

Art by Caitlyn Pritchard, 21, Brooklyn, New York

Social mask

"As humans we rely on companionship of others to survive, the acceptance and reassurance of everyone's social appraisal. Why fight for that when social media is an easy manipulated platform? People tend to put up a facade on social media, never the dark times but always the prettiest picture or monthly highlights, but edited feeds can mask serious issues behind the pretend 'perfection', making it hard to indicate signs for help.

Altered appearances, negative online behaviors can be overused for the purpose of gaining likes, comments, shares, etc. These things all feed into 'Social worth.' Gaining these feels amazing but when not given could lead to self-consciousness, depression and anxiety."

Art by Caitlyn Pritchard, 21, Brooklyn, New York

Dopamine gamble

"Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter your body produces and it plays a role in how we feel pleasure.

It's a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. This is released when you scroll through social media or even get a notification.

Gambling and social media addiction are very similar. You don't know what's coming next. Sometimes it's a beautiful photo. Sometimes it's just an ad. Slot machines and social media both share these variable rewards. 

Just like gambling, social media physically alters the brain's structure and makes people more susceptible to depression and anxiety."

Art by Caitlyn Pritchard, 21, Brooklyn, New York


"Even though the word isn't used often or by everyone, it's guaranteed everyone's done it. 'Phubbing' is the practice of ignoring one's companion(s) in order to pay attention to one's phone or mobile device.

This action threatens fundamental needs, belongingness is affected by not feeling as important as the phone that's collecting the eyes and attention. This could lead to self-esteem issues, even relationship problems."


Drawing by Arianna
Getchu back
"This song is about to show how somebody could be sad but letting go makes them stronger. Sometimes you hold on to certain people, and that’s what’s hurting you because you’re not letting go.

I think it’s important to have a safer internet because sometimes young kids go online and see things they shouldn’t see. To make it safer there should be questions before you post about what age group you want to be able to see this video."

Arianna, USA.
You did me dirty and Imma get you right back
I really thought you had my back
But you thought that’s really sad


You did me dirty and Imma get you right back
I really thought you had my back
But you thought that’s really sad


Now I got mad trust issues
I regret showing my love to you
It’s really crazy knowing what love could do to you
You wrote me I wrote you back like who are you
You took advantage
and I don’t really understand it
I want to know if you planned it
So leave me broken leave me damaged

You walked over me without a purpose
and you know well it wasn’t worth it
I know everyone’s not perfect
but what did I do to deserve this cause

I was always there for you
I’m the one who really cared for you
But you could forget about that now
Cause I ain’t showing love to you

You did me dirty and Imma get you right back
I really thought you had my back
But you thought that’s really sad


You did me dirty and Imma get you right back
I really thought you had my back
But you thought that’s really sad


I’m type upset I’m going through emotions
I’m not gon’ lie but I’m really feeling hopeless
Every time I feel I’m not the type to open

Because when I say how I feel people think I’m joking
People play victim when they know they be provoking
I ask them could they stop but they just keep on going

But then they tell me chill when I start exploding
I don’t mean to be that way I wish I could control it
But my main goal is to stay focused

I got back up even when I feel broken
Everything I got I earned it, it wasn’t stolen
I always remember don’t get caught up in some moment

If I’m one of your options I don’t wanna be chosen
Know that I’m winnin’ don’t care about my opponent
Just know that I’m next up if you haven’t noticed

And if you moving wild Imma be like what’s your motive
You did me dirty and Imma get you right back
I really thought you had my back
But you thought that’s really sad


You did me dirty and Imma get you right back
I really thought you had my back
But you thought that’s really sad




Mic Ruiz, 26

"My artwork represents the voice that won’t be spoken. The perspective that a lot of people do have and won’t express it either because they’re afraid of what the feedback might be from the world or the environment that they’re in.  

We’ll never have a safer Internet. But we can have a more aware Internet. We can have an environment where people are more aware of what the Internet truly is and how they’re affecting it.  

I think the better question would be how can we find the right people that can reach the youth? Because we’re not listening to each other. When we listened to someone else, they were listening to celebrities, rappers, and singers. So we need the right voice."

Mic, who is a content creator in New York, wrote this script on the impacts of social media. You can download it here (pdf):


Artwork by Briana Burgoa, 15, New York City
"My artwork represents how social media can negatively affect teens mindsets on beauty standards."


Briana, 15

"Some adults may not know how much social promotes really unrealistic body types and make it seem like it’s very normal, a lot of girls and boys my age get reminded everyday how different they are from influencers on social media.

Certain posts contain very skinny women who starve themselves to get to that “ideal” body, or even very expensive surgery that may badly affect your body over time. Boys are reminded with the ideal body builder standard they expect fast results and just give up with in a few weeks.

My drawing shows how having those posts as a so called “inspiration” can cause disorders such as body dysmorphia. For those of you who may not know what body dysmorphia is, it is a disorder that causes a person to lose or gain an unhealthy amount of weight because in their eyes they focus on all the small imperfections they have or sometimes even see themselves as their own nightmare. What we may see is completely different in their eyes. 

Anything as small as just a photo of yourself can bring others down on their own expectations causing a lot of negatives in their health. Those being anything ranging from anxiety to self harming thoughts or worse. 

I think young people can contribute to these actions to help people younger than us by having more safety alerts on all social media platforms as like a trigger warning, telling what that post may contain such any body image posts, maybe gun violence, or drugs.

Teens can also have a once in a while check in with their friends to have a reminder that there’s always someone there to talk to, staying off of social is a lot to ask for but a break from it just to have a conversation with someone can actually make someone that’s having a bad day to feel much better afterwards. Even just having an hour a day away from any social media platform can greatly impact your day without all the negativity."



Darren, 20

"Making the Internet safer is important for the youth to be able to establish a mind frame that although social media can be used as a platform for business and personal reasons, there’s a lot of negative stuff out there.

Some people get on social media to bash people and make them feel a lot worse than they do. A lot of people who do those things don’t really know the impact it's having on the person. You don’t realize how even if you say something minor and you think it’s a joke, it may bring around stress disorders and cause negativity.  

I think we need to bring groups of positive people together. If we give those groups a little more recognition and have some light shined on them, people will know where to go for guidance.

When you consider Facebook groups or any type of online communities with guidelines you have to follow, a lot of people don’t even know they need that type of support and they wouldn’t know unless they joined a group like that.

You can catch a great vibe in those groups and people just may not know or have access to those groups.

Some people really want help with their mental health but they may not have the access or awareness for that type of support."


A presentation on social media by Tookie, from the USA
A presentation on the impacts of social media by Tookie, from the USA

Tookie, 17

"My project is based on how I shouldn’t be on social media every day and in the chart, I’m telling other people reasons why they shouldn’t be on it every day. I put some questions on it too. I think (it is important to have a safer Internet) because people are getting hurt from it or hurting themself from it."