Social media’s impact on mental health: Viewer Question

Tech

(NewsNation) — Social media’s changed the way the world works, for better and worse. But these new advances in technology make some concerned it may be having a negative impact on kids and teens.

One study, done by the Survey Center on American Life, found 56% of those in Generation Z reported feeling lonely at least once or twice a month during their childhood, in contrast to about 24% of Baby Boomers. While there are a lot of factors at play here, some place the blame on social media.

One NewsNation viewer, Sally Saffarally, with a college-age daughter who frequently uses social media was curious to see what impact social media was having on teens’ mental health. Kris Ruby, a social media consultant and CEO of the Ruby Media Group, weighed in.

Q: So many people, especially teens, rely on Instagram and TikTok for their approval as to what’s good, and what’s accepted and what’s not. Why are we so afraid to say that social media has contributed to anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, aggression and unfortunately, even suicide?

Ruby said when it comes to examining these issues, the tide is turning.

A recent study that just came out revealed that taking a one-week break away from social media can actually reduce depression, anxiety, and overall feelings of angst,” Ruby said. “So I think the solution here is actually to really fund more of the studies and the actual medical research and psychological research around social media, like the study that we just saw.”

Ruby said she thinks there will be more of that, as big tech regulation continues to come under fire. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have faced criticism and even testified before Congress on how they moderate content.

Q:What can we now do to reverse some of these addictive tendencies that social media is causing?

“I always say if you’re worried about if you’re a parent, you’re worried about your kids on social media, have conversations with them,” Ruby said. “That is actually one of the best things that you can do.”

Being bullied on social media can be an extremely isolating experience that can lead to further depression and loneliness. That’s why Ruby said it’s important for parents to let children know they have options— including “social media minimalism.” That can mean taking breaks from screentime, putting your account on private, or limiting screen time or installing parental controls in apps such as TikTok.

Q:How can we get the right people to listen to these concerns and treat this disease?

With all the news surrounding social media, Ruby said she thinks the right people are listening to current concerns when it comes to regulating big tech companies.

“What’s really fascinating though, that I would say is that the (European Union) is just so much further along than the U.S. is in terms of data privacy,” Ruby said.

Specifically, Ruby cited the Digital Services Act and General Data Protection Regulation law in Europe as two things she’d like to see the U.S. adopt. The General Data Protection Regulation law, according to its website, levies harsh fines against anyone who violates its privacy and security standards, while the Digital Services act, per CNBC, stops platforms from targeting people with algorithms using data based on their gender, race or religion. It would also stop companies from targeting children with ads.

“I think if you really want to address these issues, it starts with stricter privacy laws,” Ruby said.

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