Social Media: How Is It Affecting You and Your Children?
Women are the most common users of social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and others, reports SproutSocial. As social media networking continues to rise, researchers are investigating the mental health effects of social media on its users. If you have one of the 3 in 4 teens who use social media sites, it's important to educate yourself about the risks.
An increasing body of research shows a relationship between the amount of smartphone use and happiness. Teens with higher levels of screen time use were less happy than those who spent more time doing "non-screen" activities, such as sports, face-to-face time with others, and reading magazines.
According to an article in The Nation's Health, a publication by the American Public Health Association, young people, particularly young women and teen girls who frequently use social media, are at highest risk for depression.
A study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine says depression from social media could develop from:
- Seeing your peers posting idealized representations of themselves, fostering feelings of jealousy and low self-confidence
- Engaging in meaningless social media activities that produce feelings of wasted time and guilt
- An emerging internet addiction
- Cyber-bullying or other negative interactions
Social media also can contribute to depression by increasing feelings of isolation and decreasing face-to-face interactions.
In fact, ChildMind.org reports that, due to today's constant online connections, adolescents are missing out on the critical development of social skills because they don't have enough practice conducting face-to-face interactions.
If you think social media usage or excessive use of technology could be having negative effects on your child, consider these tips:
- Know where your child is online. "Friend" or follow your children on their social accounts and monitor their interactions.
- Create a family media plan.
- Establish technology-free zones and hours in your home. Keep devices in public parts of your home.
- Take time to put down your own phone and give your child your full attention.
- Encourage your teen or child to participate in social activities and hobbies.
- Learn many of the warning signs of trouble: skipping activities, meals and homework for social media; weight loss or gain; a drop in grades.
Know the Symptoms of Depression
Whether you are concerned that you or a loved one could be struggling with depression, it's important to know the signs, which can include:
- Withdrawing from social interactions (canceling engagements, not answering calls, etc.)
- Having trouble focusing on tasks
- A change in sleeping or eating habits
- Irritability or sudden mood changes
- Sudden changes in weight
If you're experiencing symptoms of depression, you are not alone. Ask your primary care physician for a referral, or ask a trusted friend or family member if he or she has experience with helpful providers. According to NAMI, successfully treating depression may require therapy, medication, real-life social support (not including social media), involvement in hobbies or social activities, exercise and a healthier diet.
Reaching out for help is all it takes to start living a happier, more authentic life, with or without social media.