Research Links Heavy Social Media Usage to Depression in Kids

Jan 13, 2017

A recent study found that 4 percent of 16-year-olds were in the at-risk category having high levels of depression symptoms, low self-esteem and elevated social media use.

In another instance, a study published in November, from the University of Lancaster, England, looked at the many studies done on social media with teens also finding some negative effects from social media. However, researchers also found that social media, when used well, could actually help with depression.

Is Social Media Harmful For Our Children Or Helpful?

This new way of communicating using social media often worries parents. Dr. Julie Alonso-Katzowitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Dell Children’s Hospital and University of Texas Austin Dell Medical School, says the important thing is to, “measure how social media is affecting your child’s life.”

If you’re seeing your child using social media in exclusion of real life friends, real life hobbies and real life relationships with the family, those are big red flags. Also, are they depending on the power of likes on social media to feel validated?

  • Are they irritable or angry in a way that seems unjustified?
  • Do they view their cellphone as their only lifeline to friends?
  • Are they isolating themselves?

When kids have underlying issues (for example, depression, anxiety, or other problems), their problems can become magnified by cyberbullying, social media, or sexting scandals. When children start isolating, not sleeping, or not doing school work, it may be time to take a look at the big picture and use some tools to set boundaries and monitor their social networks.

Tools To Set Boundaries on Social Media

While taking away Internet usage completely seems like a reasonable solution to many parents trying to help their children, it can often backfire. Instead, set healthy boundaries and use social media to enhance their quality of life with communication and moderation.

Giving kids unlimited access without any rules or guidance will cause the child more problems in the long term.

It’s important to make sure that sleep is a priority. Using parental control software like Net Nanny can allow parents to have remote access to ensure that kids are getting the proper rest they need to be successful.

Parents can also make sure that kids aren’t being affected by harmful inappropriate content like pornography using Internet filters.

Social media can be useful, says Alonso-Katzowitz. She’s seen kids find a support network or find people who were interested in some of the same things they are through social media. That can help lessen depression.

In addition, Alonso-Katowitz recommends having a discussion with kids to encourage real life friends vs. virtual ones. A digital family contract can help make sure everyone is one the same page.