Is Social Media Causing Mental Health Issues?

New study shows that social media use does not directly correspond with depression and anxiety in teens. Find out why I agree, and what I think one of the real problems are!

**Disclaimer** I am not a mental health professional. If your child is dealing with serious mental health issues please go seek the advice of a professional.

When you are a parent you are bombarded with the dangerous side effects of social media. There are some experts that will tell you social media will be the complete downfall of our teens. That it will lead them to pornography addiction, bullying, and serious mental health problems.

side effects of social media

I generally don’t put a lot of stock in “studies” that measure this kind of thing, unless of course, it supports what I already believe. In this sense, you literally can find a study to back up any sort of claim. So, when I saw this study from BYU I definitely took notice. Since it backs up my claims that social media and technology aren’t really the problem.

The 8-year study, published in Computers in Human Behavior poses the question “If they increased their social media time, would it make them more depressed? Also, if they decreased their social media time, were they less depressed?” What they found was that anxiety or depression were not side effects of social media in teens.

Professor Sarah (I like her already) Coyne found during the study that there were 3 key things you can do when you are using social media to help combat any negative side effects.

3 Keys to Combat Negative Side Effects of Social Media

  1. Be an active user instead of a passive user. Instead of just scrolling, actively comment, post and like other content.
  2. Limit social media use at least an hour before falling asleep. Getting enough sleep is one of the most protective factors for mental health.
  3. Be intentional. Look at your motivations for engaging with social media in the first place.

I think one of the key factors in the increase in teen depression and anxiety is outlined in her tips. I truly think our kids are not getting enough sleep these days. Whether that is because they are not being limited in their electronics after bedtime, or because their parents just allow them to stay up too late, it’s definitely a problem.

Adequate Sleep

I have always been a huge stickler for bedtime. My 14-year-old daughter only recently (like within the last few weeks) asked if she could stay up past 8 PM on school nights now. We haven’t actually visited the topic of her bedtime in several years, obviously. At 14 though, we have now allowed her to stay up to 9 PM on school nights.

We have several friends whose kids don’t go to bed until 10 or 11 PM on school nights! Kids need a lot more sleep than adults, and we need to make sure they are getting enough of it.

One way to help your kids go to bed on time is to limit screen time prior to their actual bedtime. This allows them time for their brains to calm down and get ready to go sleep.

Another way to ensure kids are going to sleep instead of playing around on electronics is to have them turn in their devices to something like the TechDen. Something that will actually lock the device up is super helpful, as many children state they just go back into their parent’s room to grab their phones after their parents have fallen asleep. Kids are sneaky, remember.

Finally, you can make sure kids aren’t using their devices by locking it down at night. This can be done through your router, through your cell phone carrier, and on the device itself (make sure you lock it down all three places, or there will be many ways to get around this restriction).

Be An Involved Parent

Additionally, if you are constantly involved with what your children are up to online, and having conversations with them about what they are encountering, you will be able to keep some of the side effects of social media at bay.

Talk to your kids about FOMO and help them understand that not everything they see on social media is real. Discuss bullying, especially when you see it when you are checking up on them! Even in the smallest form, help them see that what they said, or what their friend said could be not very nice.

Especially discuss the dangers of pornography with your child frequently. Unfortunately, they WILL come across it. Help prepare them to know what to do when they do encounter it. Show them the different places it could appear (like an Instagram instant message, or a phishing text message).

With a few proactive restrictions and conversations, we can all end up using social media responsibly and be able to combat any mental health issues it can lead to.

Check out one way I limit social media for my kids here.

**Disclaimer** I am not a mental health professional. If your child is dealing with serious mental health issues please go seek the advice of a professional.

Is Social Media Causing Mental Health Issues?

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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