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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Social Media Could Be Detrimental to Your Child’s Mental Health

Posted By: Advancing Care

Recently, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD issued an advisory on the effects of social media on youth mental health. This news doesn’t come as a surprise to most, as we’re facing a mental health crisis at the same time as an increased reliance on social media for connection.

“Social media played a big role in the lives of youth during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Stephanie Cristofano-Casella, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist at WMCHealth’s Behavioral Health Center. “It gave kids a chance to connect with each other in a time of isolation. And it has also allowed some children to overcome the feeling of social anxiety that accompanies in-person interactions with peers.”

The U.S. Surgeon General recently issued an advisory on the effects of social media on youth mental health

In his statement, Dr. Murthy conveyed that we don’t have enough evidence to know if social media presents a danger to the mental health of our children. But, we do have an idea that adolescents and teens are being exposed to content that may be unsafe for them. Social media may also be compromising things like sleep and in-person socialization with family and friends.

“Before social media, kids were only exposed to the negative behaviors of their peers, such as bullying, at school or social situations,” Dr. Cristofano-Casella says. “Now, bullying can happen anywhere—it can follow you home and even continue throughout the night, especially if children are not being carefully monitored when using their devices.”

While research on this topic is still ongoing, Dr. Murthy encouraged policymakers, technology developers, researchers, parents, teens and mental health professionals to collaborate in making social media safer.

“Many children are already presenting to us with anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. We can’t wait for research to be complete to address these issues — children’s lives are at stake,” says Dr. Cristofano-Casella. “And moving forward, addressing mental health concerns early can help youth get treated and allow parents and any adults in their lives to better understand their needs.”

Dr. Cristofano-Casella has a few ideas for how parents can ensure their children’s safety on social media.

She suggests that parents get involved as much as they can without passing judgment, which means talking to children about what they’re seeing and reading on social media, what they’re posting and how they’re using it.

“A lot of kids are hesitant to share with parents, but these are public platforms, and the best thing that parents can do is to be part of the audience who sees your children’s activity online.”

She also suggests that parents collaborate with their children on social media. “If you allow your child to use a certain app, you should use it as well. Getting a firsthand experience with the social media platform will allow you to better understand the potential risks that your child might be exposed to.”

As for the social media companies themselves, Dr. Cristofano-Casella wants them to collaborate more with researchers, parents and mental health professionals. “These companies can do more to help us understand their products, share helpful data with researchers and consult with stakeholders to design parameters that are safer for children,” she says. “I would also love to see companies publish helpful guides for parents that explain what their apps do, what the potential dangers are for kids and how you can protect them from these dangers.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, visit your nearest emergency department. WMCHealth is one of New York State's largest providers of mental health care and offers emergency mental health services at member hospitals throughout the Hudson Valley.


Learn more about WMCHealth’s Behavioral Health Center.