With the growing prevalence of social media use in our lives, especially the lives of youth, the Surgeon General has issued an advisory surrounding the impacts of social media on mental health. A survey of the American youth has found that 40% of youth aged 8 -12 use social media even though 13 is the common age of minimum use for many platforms. Furthermore, it was found that a third of youth aged 13-17 use social media “constantly.” While the advisory highlights that social media use among adolescents has both positive and negative effects, the negative impacts are of great concern. A study of 6,595 adolescents aged 12-15 showed the association between 3 or more hours of social media use a day and negative mental health outcomes such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. As of 2021, teenagers spend an average of 3.5 hours a day on social media. This is concerning.

Based on these findings, the Surgeon General has recommended limiting the use of social media and taking frequent breaks from use. For parents, encourage your child to make in person connections and have technology free times. For youth, don’t be afraid to ask your parents or other trusted adults for help, be cautious about what you share online, and never keep online harassment a secret.

Here are some Ideas for using social media less:

  1. Keep apps in less accessible/out of sight places
  2. Social media free Monday’s (or any other day)
  3. Use an app to limit social media use to less than 3 hours a day
  4. Leave smartphones at home when safe to do so
  5. Take up hobbies that do not involve smartphones/technology

-Ashley Ramsey, Coalitions Coordinator, Anne Arundel County Department of Health

You can read the report here.
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