Too much social media is bad for a teen’s mental health, expert says
A new study from Johns Hopkins finds three or more hours a day on social media can hurt teens and their mental health.
The study found that 12- to 15-yea- olds who typically spend three or more hours a day on social media were twice as likely to experience anxiety, depression, loneliness or anti-social behavior.
Dr. Steven Tobias, director and child psychologist at The Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown, said social media disconnects people more than it connects them.
When kids are on social media, they don't empathize with the person on the other end, Tobias said, so it's easier to be mean and cruel to other kids. Tobias said it's easier for one kid to bully another kid over social media because the vulnerability factor is taken out.
Too much social media also brings out unhealthy competition, he said. Girls in particular will ask each other what they're doing, what they're posting on Instagram, who's included or excluded, how many "likes" did each get, and so on. This social competition is a no-win situation for everybody, making kids extremely vulnerable, Tobias said.
Social media can be addictive: Tobias said even when kids get "likes," it's not satisfying. They crave and need more feedback. It sets them up to be more depressed, and lonelier, more reliant on the device and less prone to in-person interaction, he said.
Tobias said there really is no easy answer for parents and how to limit social media, especially among teens. But Tobias said it's not about control; it's about engagement. Parents need to talk to their kids about this and educate them about the overuse of social media, he said. But be prepared: Tobias said many times kids will tell their parents there is nothing to worry about.
But Tobias said kids need to know that this is not about parents trying to limit their fun. It's about knowing that there are real consequences for this generation of teenagers.
"I don't believe kids have a right to privacy," Tobias said. It's the parents' phone. They are the ones likely paying for it. So they have the right to check it whenever they want to see who their kids are talking to and what they're talking about on social media, he said.
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