How Social Media Affects Children’s Mental Health

How Social Media Affects Children’s Mental Health

Social media is now part of everyday living.  We check it on the bus when going to work, during lunch breaks, and after school. For many, it is the first thing they check before getting out of bed in the morning. Social media is entrenched into the lives of children as well. It can be difficult for them to break away from it.

Long hours spent on social media could negatively affect a child’s mental health.  Some of these adverse effects include:

Causes Low Self-Esteem in Children and Teens

This is probably the greatest effect of social media on children. On a platform like Instagram, people post pictures while having fun, show off their new homes, their perfect parents who take them on vacations abroad, etc. This can make a child still in the emotional development stage compare what they see on social media and their lives. Teenagers also use social media to bully, send negative pictures and exert peer pressure on their schoolmates, which negatively affects the victim’s self-esteem.

1. Anxiety

Many teenagers and adults can feel anxious because of social media. They feel pressured to constantly post perfect photos and equally good posts to accompany the photos. There are unspoken rules in social media that are difficult to keep up with, leading to teenagers experiencing high anxiety levels. Young people view a lot of content on what their idols, peers, and friends are doing, making them feel left out. If they post something on social media and it does not get enough comments and likes as their friends, they may feel anxious and inadequate.

This can be a problem for young adults having anxiety issues because social media can exacerbate the problem. Girls feel anxious online as they are susceptible to worrying about how they look and be negatively affected by slut-shaming and cyberbullying.

2. Sleep Issues

Social media is addictive, and teenagers and children can talk with their friends and get caught up in posting for long periods. This can affect their sleep quality and sleeping patterns, impacting their mental health. Lack of sleep can affect a young adult in many ways. They may drop their grades, get moody and tired during the day, and have difficulty concentrating in class.

Also, increased screen time is associated with attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, which include emotional regulation, poor attention span, and sleeping problems. A teenager’s brain is still developing, and they require at least eight hours of quality sleep every night. Prolonged use of social media can affect both the quality of sleep and the amount of sleep, worsening mental health condition symptoms, including anxiety and depression.

3. Reduced Physical Activity

Increased screen time leads to less physical activity. Teenagers and children spend a lot of time online and less time taking part in active play. Furthermore, people drink and eat carelessly while playing an online game or watching TV, which packs more calories on their bodies leading to weight gain. Lack of physical activity and obesity leads to numerous health problems, including depression, respiratory issues, heart diseases, and diabetes.

How to Lessen the Effects of Social Media on Children’s Mental Health

  • Talk about social media. Talk to your child about the effects of social media and gauge how they feel about it. Do they like it, or does it make them worried and anxious? Educate your child about social media and help them understand that what goes on social media can have repercussions in real life. If your teen is too far gone into social media, you can enroll them in cognitive behavioral therapy to help them know how their feelings, thoughts, and behavior are related. This will help them identify and change unhelpful thought behaviors and patterns.
  • Limit social media use. This can especially work for younger children. Although they may resist at first, the limitations will eventually benefit them.
  • Be a role model. As an adult, you should be a good example by putting away your devices at mealtimes, limiting your social media time, and having specific times when you do not touch any technological device. Your child or teen will follow in your footsteps and have an improved relationship with social media.

Encourage your children to get out more by engaging in physical activity yourself. You can also participate in online games that encourage dance and movement, such as yoga and aerobics. All of these ideas combined will help your child form a healthy relationship with social media and create better balance in their lives.

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