Social media use in teenagers can have profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents, said US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy in a new advisory urging parents, policymakers and technology companies to address the growing mental health crisis. Use of social media for over three hours a day can raise risk of depression and anxiety. Excess social media use is also related to poor sleep quality in teenagers which can further impact their mental health. Health experts in an interview with HT Digital talk about harmful effects of social media and also suggest ideal screen time for teenagers. (Also read: Social media poses profound risk to teenagers’ mental health, says US Surgeon General in advisory)
GIRLS CAN SUFFER FROM BODY IMAGE ISSUES
“Kids who tend to have a lot of screen time and use social media without any regulation can encounter mental health issues. These kids watch violent or disturbing content that can take a toll on their mental well-being. This can be a matter of concern as the kids can get stressed, anxious, depressed, violent, frustrated, and feel lonely as well. Apart from that, some girls will also have issues such as poor self-esteem, body image issues and can suffer from eating disorders when they try to look like or imitate a certain celebrity they like. There are many kids who are glued to smartphones 24/7. It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that the child doesn’t exceed the given screen time to them. Screen time for around 1 hour per day is ideal for children under parental guidance. It is a good idea to ensure that the child watches educative content instead of gore or sexual content,” says Dr Jagdish Kathwate, Consultant Neonatologist & Pediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Pune.
A FEW MINUTES OF SCREEN TIME EVERY DAY CAN HELP
“We suggest giving a few minutes of screen time everyday rather than binge watching over the weekends. Kids have access to the screen and constantly crave for screen time so even if parents try to restrict, they may watch the screen behind their back. But when you allow some amount of screen time instead of setting strict boundaries around it, it just gives the message to the child that they are not getting deprived of screen and hence it may reduce the cravings for it,” says Dr Sachi Pandya, Consultant – Paediatric Psychology, NH SRCC Children’s, Hospital Mumbai.
RISKS OF CYBER BULLYING, DEPRESSION, SLEEP DEFICIT
“Social Media has its own pros and cons for teenagers. The medium has helped kids be more creative and it gives better access to global events and current affairs. Kids have a better chance on virtual networking but social media exposure can also have detrimental effect on health because of overuse. Due to spending too much time of social media, they are less connected to real world activities which could lead to depression, anxiety issues, body image issues, constant need for external validation, peer pressure, and cyber bullying. This can also lead to interrupted sleep or inadequate or disturbed sleep. When kids are glued to social media sites all the time, they are less active which may lead to several health issues, says Dr Shreya Dubey – Consultant – Neonatology & Paediatrics, CK Birla Hospital Gurugram.
IDEAL SCREEN TIME FOR KIDS
Dr Dubey suggests the following screen time for kids across different age groups:
- For kids less than two years old screen time should be zero except for video chatting.
- For kids between 2 to 5 years of age one hour of supervised screen time is ok.
- For children who are more than 5 years and for teenagers, 2 hours of recreational screen time per day is enough.