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When we meet new clients, especially children and adolescents, we make a point to learn about social media involvement and overall electronics use. There is ample evidence that the digital age has brought both positive and negative changes to our lives. We are concerned about the risks to kids' mental health when involvement in the digital world is too intense. Below, we provide a few snippets of information to help explain our concern.
The graphic to the left shows the relative risk of being unhappy related to time spent in different activities (in 10th graders). The results are profound: time spent in sport, religion, work, in-person socializing and even homework were all associated with less unhappiness. In contrast, digital/screen activities were related to increased risk for unhappiness.
Webster's simple definition of addiction makes it easy to define digital media use as an addiction: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble).
More than that, however, we know that dopamine responses in the brain in response to media use and withdrawal are remarkably similar to substance addictions. Here's an interesting article on how digital media has turned us into dopamine junkies.
We recommend the fascinating book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter.
From the American Academic of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
We know that social media is here to stay, so we need to consider tactics that don't rely on restriction alone. One such tactic is "Disrupt the Feed" based on research by Dr. Teri Apter and The Female Lead. In a small study, adolescent girls were assigned four high-achieving women to follow on social media (in addition to their normal use). As a result, not only did the girls become more interested in more substantive content, the algorithms of social media lead to different feeds. In other words, "following" the social media accounts of high-achieving women meant "pop-up" suggestions changed to include other meaningful content. Parents ... maybe ask your kids to "follow" some good role models!
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