The most recent Surgeon General’s Advisory report highlights the mental health impact of social media on children and adolescents. It draws attention to the association between excessive social media use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and other mental health issues among young people. The advisory emphasizes the need for awareness, education, and action to address these concerns. One of the more startling data points was nearly 40% of kids between the ages of 8 and 12 use social media.
Key points from the advisory include:
Negative impact on mental health: Excessive use of social media platforms has been linked to higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems in young people. This connection is particularly evident among those who experience cyberbullying or have a preexisting mental health condition.
Social comparison and self-esteem: Social media can contribute to a culture of comparison, leading to negative self-perception and lower self-esteem among children and adolescents. Constant exposure to carefully curated, idealized representations of others’ lives can generate feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.
Sleep disturbances: Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can disrupt sleep patterns and negatively impact overall well-being. Sleep deprivation can further exacerbate mental health challenges in young individuals.
Cyberbullying and online harassment: The advisory emphasizes the prevalence and detrimental effects of cyberbullying and online harassment. These forms of abuse can lead to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation among young individuals.
Promoting positive digital engagement: The Surgeon General’s Advisory highlights the importance of fostering healthy digital engagement and responsible social media use. It encourages parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to provide guidance and support to children and adolescents in navigating social media platforms.
Empowering young individuals: The advisory emphasizes the need to empower young people to develop critical thinking skills, digital literacy, and resilience. It calls for the involvement of various stakeholders, including parents, educators, healthcare providers, and technology companies, to promote healthy online environments.
The Surgeon General’s Advisory aims to raise awareness about the impact of social media on youth mental health and encourage collaborative efforts to mitigate these challenges. By fostering a balanced approach to social media use and promoting positive digital experiences, we can support the mental well-being of our children and adolescents in the digital age.
Published by Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN, FNASN, FAAN
Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN, FNASN, FAAN, is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 22nd year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. Robin is the Director for New Jersey to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Board. She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor. Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include, 2019 and 2020 National Association of School Nurses President’s Award, 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year, 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year, and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty. Robin writes a weekly blog called The Relentless School Nurse. She also writes a monthly column in My American Nurse, the official journal of the American Nurses Association. Robin’s work is included as a case study in The Future of Nursing Report 2020-2030. You can follow Robin on Twitter at @RobinCogan.
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