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The pros and cons of social media and its impact on youth

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More and more children and teens are using social media as now 71 percent of teens use more than one social media app on a day-to-day basis.

The constant scrolling and posting means kids can interact with hundreds of friends and strangers per day, and experts say it impacts mental health.

"There is a correlation behind excessive social media use and some mental health, primarily depression and anxiety," says Patrick Rogers, behavioral health director at Community Health Alliance. "It's a correlation, not necessarily a causation."

Rogers tells us there are both direct and indirect negative impacts, but also positive impacts from social media as well. He noted the impacts below:

Direct negative impacts

  • Body image -- kids bombarded with unrealistic body types images every day
  • Cyberbullying -- large contributor to low self-esteem that can lead to self-harm and suicidal ideation
  • Like fishing -- Getting a positive feeling for posts that get a lot of "likes"

Indirect negative impacts

  • Sleep deprivation leads to increased mood and anxiety issues and poor health
  • Reduced human-to-human interaction increases social anxiety and decreased social skills later on in life
  • Reduced physical activity and exercise leads to poor health. Rogers notes more than five hours of screen time increased obesity by five times over one to three house of usage

Positive impacts

  • Sense of belonging -- gives kids who are isolated a sense of belonging and a place where they feel more welcome
  • A place for resources -- social media platforms are starting to provide more resources. Rogers notes companies are beginning to understand the emotional and mental health needs of children and teens
  • Entertainment -- social media provides a variety of entertainment options like photos and videos for youth to enjoy

We spoke with a couple of teens from Carson High School who use social media frequently, both of them saying they believe social media has been more of a positive for them than a negative.

"I'm able to talk to friends, do it fast, and I also have apps with memes that make me laugh," says Cruz Bulmer, senior at Carson High. "There's a lot of information on there so I can learn a lot of things. I feel like social media is mainly positive for me."

"I wouldn't have the friends I have without social media," says Carson High freshman Samantha Kolb.

A report from Common Sense Media says kids and teens spend over seven hours per day on their phones.

"It's sad as a parent because I want to talk to my child more," says Allison Kolb, mother of freshman Samantha. "As soon as they're off from school they're in their room doing homework, or they're on social media talking with friends. Family kind of gets put to the side."

Patrick Rogers from Community Health Alliance says screen time should be two hours or less every day. He suggests a few tips for parents to limit their children's usage.

  • Communicate that you know the issues of the child and being supportive of them
  • Be firm but fair
  • Set social media limits allowing children to participate in finding common ground
  • Make the bedroom screen-free after an agreed-upon hour. Kids can charge devices overnight in a different room
  • Encourage more direct face-to-face human interaction
  • Increase physical activity by getting outside and/or joining clubs and teams
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