Excessive social media use linked to depression, anxiety for teens

Dr. Sarah Domoff says too much time on social media is linked to depression and anxiety in some teens.

More teens than ever are using social media.

The Pew Research Center says 80 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 have at least one social media account.

Of those teens, 88 percent report seeing someone be mean or cruel online.

New research shows too much screen time can have harmful effects on kids.

Maria Freeman lives in Genesee County and is a parent of four children.

Her oldest, age 19, two twins age 14, and her youngest, age 11.

She says it’s a struggle to limit social media time.

“I’ll have to say this is an electronics free day,” said Freeman.

Her kids, not always receptive to cutting back on screen time.

“I can see the change in him in the behaviors. And I can see it most specifically when I take it away a little while. If I say okay you’re off at 10 o’clock today, between 10 and 12 you know it’s a negative attitude it’s a harsh personality,” said Freeman.

Dr. Sarah Domoff is a Clinical Psychology Professor and researcher at Central Michigan University.

She says new research shows too much social media use by teens can cause depression and anxiety.

“It can be really challenging because these devices really pull kids in,” said Dr. Domoff.

But there are things you can do to help.

“Parents really come in there in terms of how to increase the pros and the positives in terms of social media and decrease the negatives,” said Dr. Domoff.

Dr. Domoff says reducing access to social media for kids is a good place to start.

“What I would recommend to parents is before they get the child a phone or join a different social media accounts, to discuss where in the house are where going to have a screen free phone where should we have no phones present,” described Dr. Domoff.

Dr. Domoff says parents can demonstrate healthy social media use.

“If we can model to our children that we put our phones away at the dinner table or we don’t bring our devices to bed, that can go a long way,” explained Dr. Domoff.

“At the dinner table it is a phone free zone, however what my husband does he has to be connected all the time. My husband’s phone’s next to him, my phone’s next to me. It’s hard to navigate that too because you’re trying to explain to them why it’s important to have these down times and here we are with the same thing,” said Freeman.

Even if you can’t completely control what your kids see on social media, Dr. Domoff says you should have a conversation about it.

“It’s important that we talk to kids about the content that they see on social media, that we can respond in negative ways to certain things that we see on social media but there’s also posts that are really positive and can make us feel really good,” said Dr. Domoff.

Freeman says she talks with their kids about the things they see on social media.

She says her husband also screens their child’s social media sites before they ever log-in.

“We have it set up so that my husband has to approve any app that they want on their phone. They can’t just secretly put an app on their phone everything they do goes through him. So that’s how we monitor it. And we can say why do you want this social media platform,” said Freeman.

It's a short conversation, going a long way toward healthy use of social media.

You can learn more about helping your children navigate social media at Common Sense Media and Healthy Children.

For additional information about Dr. Sarah Domoff's research, you can visit her website.


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