I think social media and gaming too early and in excess is leading to increased levels of depression, anxiety, and addiction among teenagers. It is a correlation that is difficult to prove, but I am not the only person, and I am certainly least among experts, who believe this is true.
A December 22, 2018 CNBC report titled, “Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok have a massive underage user problem. Here’s why it matters,” makes this very assertion.
“Rates of adolescent depression and suicide are on the rise, and many parents and psychologists alike are linking this trend to the prevalence of smartphones and social media.”
“According to a report by Influence Central, the average kid gets their first smartphone at age 10.3, and opens their first social media account by age 11.4. By the time they’re 12, 50% of kids use at least one social media platform. To sign up, many lie about their age.”
Social Media isn’t the only problem. Consider the recent Fortnite gaming craze among tweens, teens, and young adults. Medical professionals and mental health professional agree that video games like Fortnite introduced too early and without guidelines can be detrimental. In a September 2018 article titled, “Does Your Child Have Fortnite Fever?” Dr. Jeffrey Ryan, a UNC Health Care pediatrician states,
“In addition to the physical changes in the brain your child can experience while playing video games, he may experience emotional changes. Dr. Ryan says that kids—especially younger ones—experience constant stimulation when playing video games. Their heart rate and blood pressure increase. They are hyperaroused.”
In fact, tweens and teens easily become addicted to games like Fortnite because of a dopamine release that occurs during hyperarousal not unlike the release that takes place when viewing pornography.
So what is a parent to do? I don’t have a “golden parachute” solution but here are some thoughts:
At a minimum, adhere to the age guidelines for social media platforms. 13 is the minimum age for the most popular platforms. I think older is better. Perhaps 16.
At a minimum, adhere to the age guidelines for video games like Fortnite. 12 is the recommendation from the game itself.
Monitor and limit the amount of time your child is allowed to use social media or play video games. This can be pain in the neck as a parent but realize you are protecting your child’s mental and emotional health. It’s worth the frustration.
Be the parent. Ask yourself if your child’s use of social media and gaming has become overwhelming or obsessive to them or maybe even something you have given them over to so that you can have a little peace and quiet. If so, it’s time to make a change. Be willing to say no even if it ticks your kid off and requires more of your time and attention.
I always think about this verse as I consider what our children are viewing and experiencing.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
So much more could be said in regard to all of this. Depression from instagram life comparison. Eating disorders. Anxiety disorders. Addiction and hyperarousal. A proven inability to make the decision to pull away from social media and video games because of an underaged and underdeveloped frontal lobe of the brain. You get the picture.
The point? I am concerned that we as parents allow social media and gaming too early and in excess and that our children are suffering the consequence.