Social media is a large part of our society today, but is the everyday use of social platforms harming our young kids and teens? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, families should be aware of the potential negative effects of social media. Here are six key points about how social media may be impacting your child’s mental health.
Studies have shown that people go through a certain “withdrawal” when social media is taken out of the equation. Many are so used to checking their accounts several times a day that it becomes second nature. Swansea University looked into this phenomenon and found that “people who are over-dependent on digital devices report feelings of anxiety when they are stopped from using them […] these psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological changes.” 1
A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that although Facebook does provide a feeling of instant connection for some, it may do the opposite for young people and may undermine their well-being.2 Further research at the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that social isolation comes into play. Young adults seemed to feel more “socially isolated than their counterparts with lower social media use.”3
Part of that social isolation comes from the constant comparison to others through Facebook posts or Instagram photos. We see a friend’s photo and start making judgements and sizing ourselves up in comparison. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that “people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others.”4
Comparison leads to jealousy, that is certainly no secret. “It can become a vicious cycle: feeling jealous can make a person want to make his or her own life look better, and post jealousy-inducing posts of their own, in an endless circle of one-upping and envy.”5
Part of the cycle is thinking that doing the same thing, logging into social media, will have a different effect every time—that somehow those jealousy-inducing posts won’t be there. But, they will be and the cycle will continue.
“Feeling like you’re being social by being on Facebook doesn’t work. Since loneliness is linked to myriad health and mental health problems, getting real social support is important”6
The important thing to remember with social media is that it is best in moderation. Not all social media use has negative effects. On the contrary, social media allows people to connect over great distances and reach out to those from past connections. Help your kids check in with themselves and their well-being when using social media. Remind them not to use it as a tool for comparison and to step away when they are feeling jealous or sad.