Tips to boost teen mental health at home harmed by social media and screen time

One of the biggest concerns is teens trying to compare themselves to others on social media, a surge recently seen in teenage girls.
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 8:28 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New studies show a troubling trend in teenagers’ mental health.

Millions of kids are estimated to be struggling with depression and self-worth, a number that seemingly keeps climbing.

Much of that data point to social media as the source and that’s why some experts say cutting back on screen time may be key.

Joseph Rengifo, a psychotherapist at Wilmington Mental Health, shared some tips on what parents can look out for when it comes to their kids:

  • Parents should take note if their kid is spending more time with virtual friends rather than real-life ones.
  • Take note of if they are feeling more stressed or anxious after scrolling on social media.
  • Try to limit their screen time and go without a cell phone during certain times, such as at the dinner table or with family.
  • Try to balance their digital time with real-world experiences.

According to a report from the CDC, in 2021, 42% of high school students persistently felt sad or hopeless and 29% experienced poor mental health. In many cases, researchers believe that social media plays an important role in the mental well-being of these students.

If you feel professional help is needed, Rengifo explained what the process is like when treating mental health in teens.

“We call that a cognitive behavioral therapy approaches where we help the person rethink the way they think and see how their maladaptive behaviors or thought processes are causing the problems they have now. It could be the person is unaware of it,” said Rengifo.

Simply checking in on your kids, asking how their day is going, or trying to relate to them can help start vital lines of communication.

That’s where time spent face-to-face instead of in front of a screen can make a world of difference.

Some companies are even taking steps to limit screen time. Last week, one of the most popular apps, TikTok, added a 60-minute screen time limit for ages 18 and younger, although they can continue using it if a passcode is used. The app will even send out a weekly recap of total screen time.

The amount of time children and teens spent in front of a screen only got worse during the pandemic, when they lacked the face-to-face interactions they typically received.

One of the biggest concerns is teens trying to compare themselves to others on social media, a surge recently seen in teenage girls.

A psychiatric physician with Wilmington Mental Health explained the difference she has seen in teens’ mental health over the last two years and how it’s getting worse.

“It’s definitely taken a toll. I see people look on social media and say, I need to look like this, I need to do this, I can’t be this type of person, I’m different this way. And it just it creates a stigma, and it definitely has hurt mental health as a whole,” said Megan Hitchcock, Wilmington Mental Health psychiatric physician assistant.