Teen Social Media Screen Time Should Concern Parents

Teen Social Media Screen Time Should Concern Parents

Smartphones have always posed a series of challenges for parents of teenagers. From social media apps and excessive screen time to explicit content and mental health issues, the digital world often seems just as threatening as the physical. A new Pew Research study shows that when it comes to teenagers and their smartphone use, parents may be too concerned about some issues, and not concerned enough about others.

The study shows that about half (46 percent) of parents of teenagers are concerned about their teen being exposed to explicit content online. This is of course a valid concern. Adults know explicit content is ubiquitous online and can be harmful to view. But there are ways to mitigate the spread of explicit content, from changing the settings on their kids’ phones to preventing and monitoring such content with apps like Bark.

But just as concerning as the availability of explicit content to teens, if not more so, is that the amount of time teens spend on social media can lead to anxiety and depression. About 40 percent of parents surveyed were concerned about teens and social media related to productivity, and less than 30 percent of parents were concerned that their child might struggle with anxiety or depression as a result of social media use. Almost half of the parents surveyed said “they are only a little or not at all concerned about social media causing anxiety or depression in their teen.”

Unfortunately, the amount of time teenagers spend online using social media should be cause for concern, especially because of the adverse effects it has on their mental health.

Surveys show that half of older teenagers admit to being online almost constantly. According to Pew, 36 percent of 13-14 year olds use it “almost constantly.” More than 50 percent of 15-17 year olds say the same. Teenagers obsessively use social media; 67 percent use TikTok, 62 percent use Instagram and 59 percent use Snapchat. About 95 percent use YouTube. Congress is moving to pass a bill that would ban the legislature from even having TikTok because of its origins in China; parents may want to evaluate their teens’ interactions with the app.

Social media apps on phone
PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 06: In this photo illustration, the logos of social media apps Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and TikTok are displayed on the screen of an iPhone on October 6, 2021 in Paris, France. Frances Haugen, a former employee of the Facebook social network created by Mark Zuckerberg, told the US Senate on October 5 that Facebook prioritizes its profits at the expense of security and the impact of the social network on young users. To support her claims, Frances Haugen draws on her two years of experience as a product manager at Facebook and on the thousands of documents she took with her last spring, grouped together under the name “Facebook Files”.
Chesnot/Getty Images

In terms of usage volume, one recent study showed that teenagers consume up to nine hours of media on their smartphones a day.

Excessive screen time is harmful in itself, for very obvious reasons. Constant media consumption inhibits healthy activities associated with childhood, such as spending time outside, exercising, talking with friends and family, and even doing homework. If it interferes with sleep, it’s even worse.

Much research shows that too much smartphone use causes significant anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation in teenagers. Teens log on to social media or spend time online to make connections, but end up feeling more alone and sad than ever. Faceless communication not only causes feelings of isolation and loneliness, but conversely increases instances of cyberbullying, susceptibility to sex trafficking, and more.

Although I banned most social media, I still struggled with smartphone time with my own children, two of whom are teenagers. If I’m honest, a lot of the time I wish I could throw my kids’ smartphones into the nearest lake. The convenience of communication—when they need a ride home from school after practice, for example—often feels like it’s not worth keeping their screen time low and productive, and continuing to “real” activities outside and encourage. with friends and family. I understand the addiction and often tell them that I’m not sure how I would have handled a smartphone as a teenager. As an adult, I also struggle with overuse.

In a recent interview with the BBC to promote a new film about a mother and daughter who use social media, actress Kate Winslet expressed her opinion about teenagers and social media – and her concerns mirror the trends. “I definitely feel that the world of social media is scary for parents because we don’t really know what’s out there,” she said. “We don’t know how our children use it. We don’t know what effect it really has on them.” Later, she added: “I really struggle with social media,” and expressed a desire for the UK government to regulate it more.

I don’t think the US government should regulate social media and teen smartphone use, but it is an important topic for parents to understand and take seriously. Unfortunately, parents now have to worry not only about real dangers, but all that lurk online and the effects it has on teenagers and their mental health.

Nicole Russell is a mother of four who has worked in Republican politics. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and the Washington Examiner. She is an opinion columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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