Excessive Social Media For Kids Affects Mental Health

January 23, 2016
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With its endless wealth of information, the Internet can be a wonderful learning tool for kids of all ages.

But too much of a good thing is definitely bad when it comes to older kids spending time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In fact, if your teen is spending two hours or more on these apps/websites, some sort of intervention might be needed.

A recent study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking analyzed data from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. This study focused on 750 students ranging from seventh-grade to grade 12.

Here’s a look at a few of the unsettling findings:

  • Almost one-quarter of these students self-reported using social networking sites for at least two hours daily.
  • Those who did spend at least two hours every day on social media were more likely to report “poor self-rated mental health, psychological distress, suicidal ideation, or unmet need for mental health support.”

Although there isn’t a direct cause-and-effect relationship between excessive social media use and psychological problems, the results of this study does point to the tendency of youth with poor mental health using using social networking websites more.

“It could be that teens with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone,” said Dr. Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga, the lead study author, told The Huffington Post. “Or they would like to satisfy unmet needs for face-to-face mental health support.”

As tempting as it might be for worried parents to pull the plug on kids’ social media use altogether, experts argue this isn’t necessarily the best course of action. Instead, efforts must be made to include more mental health resources onto these very platforms.

“We see social networking sites, which may be a problem for some, also being a solution,” said Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold of the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego in a reaction to the study’s findings. “Since teens are on the sites, it is the perfect place for public health and service providers to reach out and connect with this vulnerable population and provide health promotion systems and supports.”

So where does this leave parents, anyway? Is there anything we can do? Helping your child cut back on social media use isn’t a terrible idea. However, Ottawa Public Health researchers advise parents to simply be aware of the fact that overuse of social media is a potential warning sign for mental health issues.

To read more about identifyig signs of depression in children, click here.

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