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Your Healthy Family: Can social media use impact well-being of teens?

Posted at 10:19 AM, Aug 30, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:44-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO – Teens and pre-teens are amongst the highest consumers of social media.

But can too much time spent on social media impact the way children feel about themselves?

According to a recent study – it can.

The study looked at 9,859 children between the ages of 10-15 over a six-year period.

Researchers found that high levels of social media use, especially for females, was associated with decreased happiness as the children got older.

Joe Austerman, D.O., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s did not take part in the study, but said it shows that young girls tend to be impacted the most, likely because of how they use social media.

He said while both boys and girls are using social media about the same amount, the ways they are using it are different.

Females tend to use more chat-based social platforms, whereas males tend to use social media more often for gaming.

Dr. Austerman said using social media apps that make it easier for teens to compare themselves with one another can be detrimental.

“The use of social media, specifically in girls, they tend to use it as a way to judge themselves,” he said. “They look at others and compare themselves to others and in that comparison, they’re always looking at better qualities in other people and then looking negatively on themselves or feeling like they don’t have those qualities.”

Dr. Austerman recommends parents set limits on social media use for their children, because more time spent online means less time spent having real face-to-face interactions.

“Have them engage in real one-on-one or group activities, face-to-face,” he said. “There’s something very important that we miss on social media when we’re on our devices and not interacting in person with people. Real, face-to-face interaction is very beneficial for our development as humans.”

Dr. Austerman said if a child who spends a great deal of time on social media starts to become isolated, irritable, has a sudden drop in grades or decreased participation in activities, these are signs that they may be having problems related to their social media use.

“It’s important to know when your child is utilizing social media, that as a parent, you should be monitoring their social media use,” said Dr. Austerman. “You should be monitoring your child and checking in with your child. If they’re having negative experiences on social media, that’s an opportunity to interact with them and teach them the dangers of social media and how they can overcome that.”

Complete results of the study can be found in BMC Public Health.