Adolescent Health Clinic: Social Media and Screen Time
Like most things, social media and screen time can have both positive and negative impacts on health. Social media can help teens and young adults connect with their friends, build online community, or find online support. Video chatting with friends is very different than scrolling a Twitter feed, for example, and both have different effects on health.
How does social media and phone use impact health?
The average teen uses screens and social media about 8-9 hours a day. Social media and excessive screen time do come with risks:
- Screen use before bed increases the risk of insomnia, which contributes to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
- Social media can present unrealistic views of others and lead teens to compare themselves to others. This can worsen depression and anxiety and lead to problems with self-esteem. Research shows that this is a particularly harmful issue for teenage girls.
- Social media can subject teens to online harassment and bullying, or even sexual harassment or stalking.
- Social media is designed to be addictive, which can make it hard to stop using! If social media and screen time replace in-person interactions, that can increase feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression.
Tips to promote mental well being
- Be mindful about the amount of time you spend on social media. What are other ways you might be able to use that time?
- Pay attention to the way you spend time every day – social media can replace time that we spend forming in-person connections. Make sure you build in connections outside of social media or texting.
- Take a screen and social media break at least 30-60 minutes each day. Use this time for reading, socializing without devices, exercise, or spending time in nature.
- Do not use your phone in the 60 minutes prior to bedtime. All screens emit blue light, which decreases your body’s production of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin sends a signal to our brains that its time for sleep! Using screens prior to bedtime disrupts that signaling, which will make you feel less tired and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Pause before you post: before posting, ask if you are comfortable sharing this information with everyone who might see it. Would you be comfortable if parents saw this information? What about other friends, grandparents, or teachers? Remember that once something is posted online, it is available there in some form forever.
- Read information critically! Misinformation can spread easily on social media sites, so confirm what you see on social media with a parent, teacher or trusted news source.
Tips for safety
- Protect your privacy. Social media accounts should ALWAYS be private – do not share photos or personal information on a public-facing site. Become familiar with privacy policies and keep your accounts as private as possible.
- Be selective with friend requests. Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Be careful with the information you share. Do not share information like your phone number, address, etc. Turn off location sharing so that strangers on social media can’t track your physical location.
- Respect others’ privacy. Talk to your friends about what you are comfortable with them sharing on public posts. Let them know if you prefer not to share information like your school, job, or a photo of you. Always ask permission before posting a photo of someone else.
- Never share any photos with nudity or sexual content via social media messaging. If you are under age 18, these photos (even if designed to be seen only by one person) can be considered child pornography and get you and the person they are sent to in legal trouble! Even if you are over 18, always assume the photos you send on social media may be viewed by more than just the person you send them to.
- Ask for help. Know how to block content and report content if needed. Report harassment! If you don’t know how to report, talk to a parent or teacher.
- Stay safe. If an adult contacts you and asks for personal information on social media, report this to your parents or another trusted adult.
Tips for parents
It is important to set reasonable limits with screen time and social media. Talk to your teenager about rules with screen time (cell phones in particular) before your teenager has their own phone. It is much harder to create NEW boundaries than it is to talk about boundaries in advance.
- When possible, delay your child’s use of social media until age 16 or later. Consider making a family account if social media is needed for school events.
- Ensure that your teen’s social media accounts are private, not public facing.
- Limit or prohibit phone use in the one hour prior to bedtime. Some families have found it helpful to turn off the wifi or use parental controls on devices to limit the ability to use screens at night.
- Monitor your teen’s accounts, and let them know you will be doing so. In order to respect your child’s privacy, it is helpful to talk about this in advance so they understand what parents may be monitoring on their phones or devices. As teens grow older, gradually increase teens’ autonomy and decrease supervision of phone or device use as teens demonstrate that they can responsibly use social media and devices.
- Consider using a Social Media Contract – a written document where you and your teen agree to screen time and social media rules.
This information is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call your clinic.
This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.
© 2023 Children's Minnesota