CONSUMER REPORTS: Social media and teen mental health

Public health experts are sounding the alarm over the potential risks of social media usage and teen mental health.
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 6:21 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2023 at 7:08 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - More teens are depressed compared to 10 years ago, and the U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory issued in May 2023 indicates that social media may be playing a role in the teen mental health crisis. Consumer Reports explains how we can help our teens control their social media consumption with some small steps at home.

Public health experts are sounding the alarm over the potential risks of social media usage and teen mental health.

Findings from the Pew Research Center show nearly all American teens go online to engage with their peers every day and half report going online almost constantly.

At the same time, nearly 3 in 5 teen girls report feeling so sad or hopeless, they can’t participate in daily activities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s the highest percentage of teens experiencing these feelings in the past decade.

You’re online, absorbed into another world, very blurred from reality. And you could be on it for indefinite periods of time; the phone is so addicting that people can’t be without it.

A New York-based psychiatrist says some teens spend between 6 and 8 hours a day on screens, much of it on social media.

The good news is, the American Psychological Association reports that teens who cut their social media use by 50 percent for a few weeks felt better about their weight and overall appearance. Controlling when and for how long apps are used can play a part in creating healthy habits.

Both iOS and Android offer pretty robust parental controls, so if you don’t want your teen using a certain app, you can go into settings and say, “I don’t want this app being used between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.”

And shutting off the WiFi is also an option. Here’s a general guide: Find your router’s IP address and access the admin controls. Look for a time scheduling or parental controls section. There you can set up a WiFi schedule for your devices.

Remember you can set up all devices in your home to follow one schedule or set a different schedule for each device.

Parents can also establish tech-free zones in certain rooms or during specific periods during the day. Also, modeling the kind of behavior you want to see in your child can lead to some positive changes, and limiting screen time can pay off.

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