The US Surgeon General recently published an advisory regarding the mental health of children and young people in the United States. This was in response to a steady increase in rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide in this demographic over the past decade. This advisory serves as a guide for the organizations that surround young people, as well as the people who care for them, with goals and recommendations of increased awareness, knowledge, and equitable access to mental health services.
While there are many factors that impact the mental health of young people, an ongoing concern addressed by this advisory is exposure to social media and technology. There are many studies that appear to support a negative impact, and others that imply that the negative aspects are overstated. Data regarding this can be difficult to accurately measure due to a multitude of variables as well as the seemingly infinite amount of technology platforms. Regardless, it is very likely that social media has a negative impact on some, if not many, children and young people. It is also likely that some are at higher risk for these negative outcomes.
While the advisory does not make concrete recommendations on specific social media platforms or amount of screen time, it does suggest active and open communication between young people and their caregivers regarding how much time is being spent online, what is being accessed, and whether this time is adding benefit or potentially taking away from other areas of life. It is recommended that parents and caregivers work with young people to discuss and set limits and boundaries for time spent on social media as well as do their best to set a positive example with their own use of technology.
Lindsey Hiatt, PA-C
Saint Sophie’s Psychiatric Center