You hear it all the time, how social media and being online can hinder the mental health of not only children and youth, but adults as well. I have read many articles and talked to my family and friends about this, especially during this pandemic when we were all stuck at home. The statistics that are available come from America and are describing children and youth. Those between the ages of eight and 28 spend an estimate of 44.5 hours a week in front of digital screens. That estimate is from before the pandemic, so obviously that number has most likely gone up due to the lockdowns.
That can be very detrimental for everyone, including adults. Studies are starting to come out that show links between anxiety and depression and digital screen times. This is specifically linked to social media, which is something that I always promote, which is why I do feel some sort of personal responsibility because I obviously want people to be on social media because that’s how I get my money. But I also want to say, put the phone down sometimes. This is not good for our brains. We cannot handle the constant knowing what everyone’s doing, knowing the great things in the world, knowing the awful things in the world. It does affect our mental health.
Teen suicide rate is up. From 2010 to 2017, it increased 56%, according to the U.S. Department of Health. That is an insane number. They are linking this to the advent of the smartphone in 2007. Prior to that, the rates of anxiety and depression went up and down in a pretty steady line. When the smartphone was widely adopted in 2011, that rate just shot up. They’re associating that to this non-stop, 24 hour information in our hands at all times.
A study came out of the University or Pennsylvania where they had two groups of students. One group was able to continue living life as normal, use social media as you do. The other group was told to only use social media for 30 minutes a day. 10 minutes on Instagram, 10 minutes on this and that. They took a baseline at the beginning of the study to view their general sense of well-being along the lines of fear of missing out, depression, self-esteem, anxiety and self acceptance. At the end of the three-week trial, the students who limited their use of social media had an overall increased sense of well-being. One line that I found interesting from that study was, “we found overall that if you use less social media, you were actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased use of social media is what causes the qualitative shift in your well-being.” I thought that was really interesting for people who live on social media because we know this now.
There has always been cause and correlation, but now there are studies saying, “here’s the proof,” and that’s only been in the last few years.
Remember, social media is really new. I have a feeling that in 2075, my grandkids are going to say to me, “oh, you’re such an idiot. You gave your kids phones at that age. What were you thinking?” Just like how my mom smoked in the car, they didn’t know any better. It just was what it was. I think these studies will come out and help us, but in the meantime, we’re kind of, in a sense, guinea pigs.
There’s a study that shows that people who are on social media late at night will wake up depressed and less happy.
I just think about these stats and think about what we’re learning. We know that teen suicide is at an all-time high. We know there’s a link between anxiety and depression and phone use. So, what can we do as parents? I will say it’s important to educate ourselves, but I will say that parents are the primary detriment of how our kids will use their phones and technology. So, if we’re on constantly, then they will be on constantly. So, we can’t nag at them when we’re constantly scrolling.
I think, in lieu of all of this stuff, maybe we should start making rules for ourselves and for our children.
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