Social Media Growing Concern for Youth Mental Health

Eric Tegethoff | Public News Service
Young women are reporting "feelings of hopelessness and sadness" more often than their male counterparts. Photo Credit: Halfpoint / Adobe Stock

Eric Tegethoff
Public News Service

Symptoms of anxiety and depression are up among adolescents and young adults. Health experts warn social media is playing a role in declining mental health.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued an advisory regarding social media and youth mental health.

Dr. Susanna Block – a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Seattle – said childhood and adolescence are critical times for brain development, and the number of kids on social media has never been higher.

“There’s just a lot of concern about the amount of time that our children are spending on social media and what they’re being exposed to,” said Block, “and it’s very hard for parents to navigate this.”

Social media and the pandemic have combined to harm young people’s mental health, studies have found. The Kaiser Family Foundation found half of people between the ages of 18 and 24 experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression this year.

May was mental health awareness month.

Block said social media usage can be a difficult issue for parents to tackle, but adds one important step involves creating a family media plan.

“Turning off notifications is helpful,” said Block. “Making times of the day screen free – certainly meal times should be screen free. Making sure that kids aren’t going to bed with their phones or their tablets so that they’re actually able to sleep.”

Block said parents aren’t the only ones responsible for confronting social media’s effects on young people.

“This public health warning is an opener for a wider conversation about how everyone from legislation to parents to schools to tech providers,” said Block, “how we can all help protect our kids and use social media in a safe way.”