In Family Support, Jr & High School, Technology

Did you know social media is harmful to children? Of course you did. The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, thought we needed another study to confirm it, though. Surprise, surprise, the new report found social media can be damaging to young minds.

The big question: What took so long?

Social media morphs kids’ brains
The Social Media and Youth Mental Health study does have some useful stuff in it (I saved you the trouble by reading it myself). Here are a few highlights:
  • Up to 95% of kids ages 13-17 have used a social media platform, one-third of them “almost constantly.”
  • Social media use is associated with changes in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Yes, social media can literally change kids’ brains.
  • One study of children ages 12-15 found those who spent more than three hours a day on social media faced double the depression and anxiety.
  • Six in 10 girls say they’ve been contacted by a stranger via social media in a way that made them uncomfortable.
The takeaway: Make a plan, walk the walk
The report says parents should create a family plan around social media and encourage discussion about its use. Teaching kids not to share private information online or with strangers is a big one.
Modeling good online behavior helps, too. Yep, that means setting screen time limits for yourself.
Sound like déjà vu?
Probably because I’ve been sharing these kinds of tips for as long as I can remember. Here’s the safety contract between kids and parents I developed years ago. Good to have you aboard, Dr. Murthy!
The report also encourages young people to reach out for help if they need it and to protect one another online where they can.
It also innocently suggests social media companies could do more to help. Ah, my sweet summer child … Of course, they could and should, but is anyone expecting them to?
It’s a start … but we shouldn’t just be starting
I’m not saying a report like this isn’t useful. Hopefully, it will be. But this is a small step in a race that began 20 years ago. Past studies have shown the devastating and sometimes lethal impact social media can have on teens.
Bottom line: Expecting social media companies to do more without greater pressure feels like wishful thinking. Laws are the only thing that will change this. Until then, it’s up to parents and guardians.
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