Social media and youth mental health
Understanding the effects of social media on kids
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Understanding the effects of social media on kids
While there’s some debate about the advent of social media and its evolution since, few can argue its impact on society and, more specifically, our children.
Social media can have positive and negative impacts. On one hand it’s connected friends, families, and even strangers in a way we never thought possible. On the other, it can create stress when it comes to fitting into social groups and presenting a "perfect" life. This kind of stress can be overwhelming and exacerbates an already rising mental health crisis. Additionally, there is risk of inaccurate information, exposure to inappropriate content, online predators, and cyberbullying.
As parents, raising children in the age of social media is a relatively new concept, but one that needs attention.
Why is this important?
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 97% of 13- to 17-year-olds reported using a social media platform like Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. Another study found that those who did use those platforms and spent more than three hours a day on them were at an increased risk for mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.1
The need for guidance on social media use is more prevalent than ever. So much so that the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, recently issued his own advisory about the risks of social media on youth mental health.2 The 25-page report draws attention to this urgent public health issue and how it could be contributing to the larger youth mental health crisis currently taking place.
What are the positive impacts of social media on children?
Before we highlight its drawbacks, it’s important to also highlight the benefits of social media. In general, having a presence on social media gives children an opportunity to build their network of friends that stretches beyond school or neighborhoods, and can provide much needed support and a sense of belonging. This is especially true for kids who feel excluded in other settings or who deal with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
And, according to the Mayo Clinic, these platforms “can expose teens to current events, allow them to interact across geographic barriers, and teach them about a variety of subjects, including healthy behaviors.”
Other benefits can include:
These kinds of benefits can even help teens avoid symptoms of depression and anxiety. But the line can often be slim between what can help and what can hinder our youth.
What are the negative impacts of social media on children?
The harmful effects of social media can often boil down to how much time your children are spending scrolling its platforms and the kind of content they’re consuming. And because adolescence is a critical time for brain development, they’re much more vulnerable to its effects.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, children are often exposed to harmful content on social media, which can range from “violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends.”
Other impacts can include:
Overall, these types of negative impacts have been linked to higher levels of anxiety, depression, and a general discontent about life.
In fact, suicide rates among 10-to-24-year-olds increased 57% between 2007 and 2017, a number that some say coincides with the rise of social media and other technologies.3
What can I do to protect my child?
While the answer may not be to completely revoke children’s access to social media, there are steps you can take to encourage responsible use and promote alternative activities.
The best thing you can do for your child is to be present and communicate. Make sure they feel like they can come to you with problems and be open with them about the harmful effects social media can create.
What resources are available?
In addition to the recommendations above, there are other resources to consider when discussing youth mental health. Here are some resources you can try:
*meQuilibrium is an independent company contracted by Florida Blue to provide health and wellness services and resources to members. This benefit is available to Florida Blue members age 18 and older. Eligibility is limited to members with an individual or family plan, an individual or family ACA plan and members with coverage from their fully insured group employer health plan.
**Florida Blue has entered into an arrangement with Wellframe to provide members with care decision support services, information and other services. All decisions that require or pertain to independent professional medical/clinical judgement or training, or the need for medical services, are solely the member’s responsibility and the responsibility of their physicians and other health care providers. Wellframe is an independent company that provides online services to Florida Blue members through the BlueforMe app.
***Florida Blue contracts with Lucet to provide behavioral health services.
1Mayo Clinic: Teens and social media use: What's the impact?
2U.S Department of Health and Human Services: Social Media and Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory
3MIT Sloan School of Management: Study: Social media use linked to decline in mental health