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Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

The rise of social media has meant that we as a global population are more connected than we have ever been in the history of time.

Social media has become immensely popular, and in recent years mental disorders among young adults has become more common.

While social media platforms can have their benefits, using them too frequently can make you feel increasingly unhappy and isolated in the long run.

The number of social media platforms used and how often they are used is related to youth mental health. A recent study found that the more social media platforms an adolescent uses, the more likely they are to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, regardless of overall time spent on social media.

The study found that those who visited any platforms at least 58 times per week were three times more likely to feel socially isolated compared to those who used social media fewer than 9 times per week. The researchers concluded that young adults saw themselves as being socially isolated from their peers whether or not it was actually true. Just because they believe that they lack friends doesn’t mean that they do. In addition to feelings of social isolation and depression, social media has also been found to be associated with self-image.

Should Parents Be Worried?

It is obvious that not all social media sites are healthy environments for adolescents. Bullying, cliques, and sexual experimentation are just as prevalent online as offline. Because children are not good at self-regulation and are susceptible to peer pressure, social media sites can be dangerous places to “hang out.” The minimum age to access social media sites is 13 because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits websites from collecting information on children younger than 13 without parental permission. However, age is based on self-report, so children younger than 13 can simply lie about their age and open accounts.

Most parents do not fully comprehend social networking sites. And, with many parents’ busy schedules, this leaves many kids unsupervised in the online world, which can lead to problems. Parental supervision is as valuable online as it is offline in instilling values and safeguards.

Parents should check in regularly with their children to ensure that their online behavior is appropriate.

What Should You Do?

If you think you or your child might be using social media too much or that social media may be affecting your mental health or the health of someone you know, consider these tips:

  • Turn off your notifications for at least a few hours each day (which you can gradually increase); put your phone in “Airplane” mode or “Do Not Disturb”.
  • Delete apps that contribute to unhealthy body image or other feelings of inadequacy. Add apps that help you feel better about yourself or inspire you to engage in healthy behaviors. Meditation apps can be a better use of your time, for example: Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. Here is an article with more app suggestions. Use apps that block certain other apps and tell you about your usage. This will help to increase your awareness of how much you are engaging with social media and help you focus on other activities.
  • Use an alarm clock instead of relying on your phone as an alarm to prevent you from using your phone the minute you wake up.
  • Take a day off from social media to focus on other things. Sunday is a good suggestion since it is a day when you probably aren’t in school or at work.
  • Consider putting your phone in grayscale. This makes your phone less enticing to look at. With the colorful apps and notifications changed to gray, they may be easier to ignore.
  • Set boundaries or only certain times when you can check your notifications.
  • Start a habit of placing your phone near the door when you come home — doing it with a friend, partner, or family member can help you stay motivated and accountable! Make a plan with a group of friends to spend more time hanging out in person and less time interacting via social media.

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