The U.S. Surgeon General says there are many reasons to be concerned about the effect of social media on youth mental health across the country.
The Surgeon General’s advisory, released last week, summarized that there’s no definitive conclusion that social media is safe for children and adolescents. However, the advisory also outlines immediate steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of harm.
The Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, through the Klaras Center for Families, which provides Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Services, is doing its part to be mindful of social media’s impact.
“As with many things, there are both upsides and downsides to using social media. This is true for adults and children alike,” says Katie Chadwell, Child & Adolescent Therapist for HOTBHN’s Klaras Center for Families. “Social media can allow some youth to find support and acceptance with peers their age and can also allow them to keep in touch with friends and family members who are not in close physical proximity. Sometimes, social media allows youth to express themselves in ways they might not feel comfortable doing otherwise.
“One downside to social media use for children is a shift in perception of interpersonal relationships. There is a level of anonymity online that allows others to disguise their true identity. This disconnect can sometimes lead to youth being deceived into thinking they know somebody when they only know what the person tells them.”
Chadwell stresses that social media use also allows bullying to be carried from the school environment into the home environment.
“Many times, children who are bullied at school are also bullied online, leading to increased feelings of depression and anxiety and lowered self-esteem. It is crucial for caregivers to monitor what their children are doing online and to limit the amount of time children spend on social media, to ensure that they have ample opportunities for in-person interaction with peers.”
The Surgeon General’s advisory says parents & caregivers, children and adolescents, policymakers, technology companies, and researchers can all contribute to mitigating social media’s potential harm to children and adolescents.
HOTBHN’s Klaras Center for Families (KCF) can be reached by calling (254) 752-7889. For complete information about KCF and all of HOTBHN’s programs and services, visit our website at www.hotbhn.org