Teens’ social media use could signal mental health issues
Excessive social media use could be a sign of mental health problems in teens, according to a new study. Researchers found that teens who spent more than two hours on social media each day were more likely to have poor mental health, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.
“Use of social networking sites can lead to poor mental health, and poor mental health may be a reason why youth use social networking sites,” said Dr. Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga in a news release. “That said, it could be that kids with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone. Or it could be that greater time online exposes one to more opportunities for cyberbullying, for instance.”
Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., says it’s not just about the amount of time kids are spending on social media, but rather why they are using it.
“While limiting time online is a healthy choice, excessive social media use is not in and of itself indicative of a mental health problem,” she says. “I recommend that parents regularly check in with their teens about how they are feeling, what may be troubling them, and about their use of social media.”
If parents notice that their child is struggling, Dr. Roberts encourages them to talk with the child about what they are feeling and get them the support they need.
“Social media has the potential to be helpful in that it can offer children and teens a sense of community and connection, which they may otherwise lack. On the other hand, depressed children and teens may seek out other people or information that can negatively contribute to their feelings. The only way to make this determination is to talk to your children and teens– find out how they are feeling, how they use social media and what additional support they need.”
If you suspect that your child or teen is depressed, it may be appropriate to seek an evaluation from a professional or speak to your child’s school for additional support.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.