Experts say social media impacts children’s mental health, can lead to suicide

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United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on social media and youth mental health, noting that social media can pose risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children.

The advisory notes that social media can pose risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children. It also states that children are in a critical stage of brain development, which makes them more vulnerable.

Dr. Murthy is calling on policy makers, technology companies and families to gain a better understanding of social media impacts and work to minimize the harms.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok are some of the other widely known platforms that some children check constantly.

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Cherlette McCullough is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Winter Park.

She said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media was an outlet for children and adults since the outside world was shutdown.

“This has been an issue for some time, but I think the pandemic is one that highlighted it and made it a little worse than what it actually was,” McCullough said.

Post-lockdown, people are still attached to their devices and constantly scrolling.

McCullough said that what children are seeing online can cause anxiety, depression and even lead to suicide.

“Social media is one of those things that gives them this outlook that tells them how they should look, how they should behave, what they should have,” she said.

The licensed therapist said some key issues with social media are body imaging and comparison.

“In their development years, they don’t have that ability to know that this is deception. For them, this is the truth,” McCullough said.

Use of these platforms can also lead to bullying, peer pressure and sexual harassment.

Orange County Public Schools is considering joining other districts in lawsuits against multiple social platforms.

The districts are accusing these social media companies of negligence and being a public nuisance.

“I do feel that there should be more policies and procedures from these platforms around keeping our teens safe,” McCullough said.

She urges parents to have conversations with their children about social media, asking questions like, “What do you look at on social media?” or “What are you concerned about?”

She also said parents should be a good example to their children. Parents can show kids how to limit screen time by doing so themselves.

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