A study recently published in JAMA suggests social media use among teenagers is significantly correlated with increasing suicide rates. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services suggests 71% of pre-teens, teenagers and young adults use more than one social media site. The most popular social media platforms are Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Day-to-day usage can include messaging, video chatting, picture posting, blogging, article sharing, among many others. Essentially, young people today are connecting with each other online far more than face-to-face.
Teens spend dozens of hours a week scrolling, posting, and reading, and increasingly data confirm this comes at a high cost. Social media makes it easy to airbrush experiences and life events, leaving out details about the mundane, the struggles and difficulties. Young people are particularly vulnerable to these distortions as their sense of self is still in the process of developing, and peers are highly influential. “Who am I compared to others” is one of their top concerns, and when you compare yourself to airbrushed profiles, you tend to come up short. Increasing numbers of young people report feeling inadequate, jealous, anxious and depressed.
If you think social media may be affecting your mental health or the health of someone you know, consider these tips:
Turn off your notifications for at least a few hours each day (which you can gradually increase); put your phone in “Airplane” mode or “Do Not Disturb”.
Delete apps that contribute to unhealthy body image or other feelings of inadequacy. Add apps that help you feel better about yourself or inspire you to engage in healthy behaviors. Meditation apps can be a better use of your time, for example: Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace.
Use an alarm clock instead of relying on your phone as an alarm to prevent you from using your phone the minute you wake up.
Take a day off from social media to focus on other things. Sunday is a good suggestion since it is a day when you probably aren’t in school or at work.
Consider putting your phone in grayscale. This makes your phone less enticing to look at. With the colorful apps and notifications changed to gray, they may be easier to ignore.
Set boundaries or only certain times when you can check your notifications.
Start a habit of placing your phone near the door when you come home — doing it with a friend, partner, or family member can help you stay motivated and accountable! Make a plan with a group of friends to spend more time hanging out in person and less time interacting via social media.
If you are a parent wanting to learn more about how to limit your child or teenager’s social media use, check out these additional tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.