Social Media is ‘Hurting’ Our Kids — We Need to ‘Step In’

Social Media is ‘Hurting’ Our Kids — We Need to ‘Step In’

By Movieguide® Contributor

Experts have drawn a troubling connection between social media use and rising mental health issues in young people. 

Dr. Vinitha Moopen with WellSpan Health told Fox43 that physicians have seen “a large increase” in children suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and issues with self-image, as well as kids who have trouble interacting with people face-to-face as opposed to on a screen. 

A 2014 study from UCLA supports this finding — the study found that kids who went screen-free for five days were better at reading emotional cues than children who had access to screens for those same five days. 

“Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues is one of the costs [of social media use] — understanding the emotions of other people. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills,” Patricia M. Greenfield, a professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the study, said

Dr. Moopen said all of the side effects of frequent social media use “can be very detrimental, especially when 95% of teenagers have at least one social media account.”

“They are not ready to navigate these waters,” she explained. “We’re seeing it younger and younger. We’re seeing anxiety sometimes in 7 – 8 year olds. And that’s very distressing. Especially with the lack of therapists and psychiatrists that we have, it’s hard to see this every day.”

She urged parents to have open conversations with their children about the dangers social media poses and create designated screen-free times at home and take electronics away at night. 

“Sometimes it takes extreme measures, but our kids are hurting and we need to step in,” Dr. Moopen said. 

She is not alone in warning parents about the dangerous side effects of social media, especially on young people. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently called on Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms. 

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents. A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” Murthy said. “Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior.”

Movieguide® previously reported on Dr. Murthy’s thoughts on young people’s social media use:

US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, has said that he believes 13 is too young for children to join social media platforms. 

“I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early, it’s a time where it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what’s going into how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children,” Murthy said.  

Many large social media platforms such as Meta and Twitter currently allow users to join their platforms at the age of 13. With little regulation when it comes to age, these companies have no real incentive not to allow younger kids to join, especially when their competitors are. 

Murthy had sympathy for parents, acknowledging that limiting social media use is not a simple task. He suggested parents may have to unite to protect their children from social media. 

“If parents can band together and say you know, as a group, we’re not going to allow our kids to use social media until 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that’s a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids don’t get exposed to harm early,” Murthy said. 

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