Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, and it has also become a significant part of our children's lives. From smartphones to tablets and laptops, technology is everywhere and it's affecting our children's mental health in ways we never imagined. In this blog, we will explore some of the ways technology is impacting the mental health of our children and what we can do to help mitigate its negative effects.
Good ol’ social media
There are some positives to social media. It’s a way for kids to connect to one another when they’re not at school, share photos and comments with family members that do not live close, and connect to groups that represent different aspects of their identities or interests,
such as sports, theater, music, or LGBTQ pride and support. However, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are designed to be highly engaging and addictive. Children are spending more time on these platforms, which can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Social media can also create pressure to present a perfect image of oneself, leading to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
Blue light exposure
The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle by using devices that produce this artificial blue light. When we are exposed to blue light in the evening or in the middle of the night, it can disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycle by tricking the brain into
not producing melatonin. This causes us to feel less sleepy than we should at bedtime. In fact, one study found that evening blue light exposure suppresses melatonin in children twice as much as in adults. (Crowley, S. J., Cain, S. W., Burns, A. C., Acebo, C., & Carskadon, M. A. (2015). Increased Sensitivity of the Circadian System to Light in Early/Mid-Puberty. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 100(11), 4067–4073. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26301944/)
Additionally, children who spend too much time in front of screens may not be getting enough physical activity, which is essential for overall well-being.
To help mitigate the negative effects of technology on our children's mental health, it's essential to set boundaries and limits around screen time. Set specific times of the day when screens are not allowed, such as during meal times and before bedtime. Encourage children to engage in other activities, such as playing sports, reading, or spending time with friends and family.
It's also essential to teach children how to use technology responsibly. Encourage them to use social media in a healthy way and to be mindful of the impact it has on their mental health. Teach them to be critical consumers of online content and to be aware of the potential risks of oversharing personal information. Inform your teen that what they’re seeing online often does not reflect reality but rather is a biased perspective of happenings in the real world and avoid uncomplimentary comparisons.
It’s never a bad idea to take a break from social media, and perhaps even all online activity, for days at a time rather than just for an hour or two.