Social Media: Can It Lead to Mental Illness?

It’s not uncommon for teens who drink, abuse substances, or have behavior problems to be perceived as having a high risk of mental health problems. But according to a recent study published in the journal World Psychiatry, there’s another combination of behaviors that while “invisible,” can also lead to mental health issues.

According to the research, a pattern of too much media use, sleep deprivation, and lack of exercise puts kids at risk for anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Staying up all night using social media can lead to loss of adequate sleep, which in turn can lead to the loss of desire for exercise. The combination can cause serious problems. “…the high- and the invisible-risk groups have a very similar prevalence of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and suicidal thoughts,” the researchers wrote.

The study involved over 12,000 adolescents from 11 European countries.

The scientists suggest that like the problem combination, the solution may also lead to a domino effect: limiting social media use, especially overnight, could help teenagers get more sleep, resulting in more energy and more physical activity. (Source: Medical Daily online — February 4, 2014)

What Parents Can Do…

  • Have a discussion with your kids about the need for moderation in consuming social media (and other forms of media) as well as the importance of adequate sleep and exercise.
  • Evaluate how much time your kids are spending with media. If excessive, take steps to cut back your child’s usage.
  • Evaluate whether your kids are getting adequate sleep and exercise. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Encourage healthy sleep routines (including keeping social media out of kids’ bedrooms.)

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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