New research shows that sites like TikTok can have a negative impact on children’s mental health. The algorithm is designed to keep users engaged longer, and studies show that the more children and teenagers spend on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.
Psychiatrist Dr. Asha Patton-Smith of Kaiser Permanente offered guidance for parents.
How much screen time should children get per day?
Children 6 and older should limit screen time to a maximum of two hours, Patton-Smith said.
Ages 2-5 should be limited to one hour or less.
And children 2 and older should have no screen time.
“And this is from the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Patton-Smith said.
How can parents reduce children’s screen time habits?
“Parents and guardians, what I always tell them is that you can tell them better than you can tell them,” Patton-Smith said.
She said the first thing parents should do is reduce their screen time.
“Obviously, the older the child is, the more challenging it is in this process, but setting boundaries and times when screens should be off – dinner time, family time out, certain times on the weekend, time during study”, she said.
How is social media harmful?
A 2019 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at different types of social media and screens and found that the amount of screen time can be harmful, Patton-Smith said.
“However, social media appears to be the biggest culprit in the growing challenges of depression and anxiety,” she said.
By reinforcing the algorithm, users can be absorbed and continue to stay.
“So if you’re looking for something and other things come up that are very similar, you look up and you’ve been standing for hours and it seems like it’s only been minutes,” Patton-Smith said.
Another thing that is especially difficult with teenagers is the “increasing social comparisons,” she said.
“So comparing the social experiences you’re seeing on social media as more favorable than your own experience,” she said.
Body image is one. The activities people do is another.
“I hear a lot of teenagers say, ‘Everybody’s having too much fun but me,'” Patton-Smith said. “How do you know? Is it because of social media? Because that’s not always correct.”
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