Social media's association with mental health and the need for more research

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How providers can advocate for increased research determining social media and its association with youth mental health.

Willough Jenkins, MD, the inpatient medical director of Consultation Liaison and Emergency Psychiatry at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California, joined Contemporary Pediatrics to discuss pediatric mental health and social media use.

"As of what we know... there is some research, but one of the key issues is we need more research, and we need some more detailed research," Jenkins said. "What we do know is there is an association with children's mental health and social media use, particularly when looking at depression and anxiety."

Jenkins discussed how social media, on a general scale, is part of a child's everyday life, making access to data from the social media companies themselves very important.

With growing concern that social media is a contributing factor in the youth mental health crisis, the surgeon general of the United States, Vivek Murthy, recently released an opinion piece published in The New York TImes calling for warning labels across platforms.1

"It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents," wrote Murthy in the article.2

"It's very important [that] we're able to look at type of platform, type of content, the way that it is being used [among children]," said Jenkins. "Screen time throughout the day [is important to know]. For example, we all know that social media use at night can interfere with sleep. There's a lot of details that need to be teased out. One is being able to access that data."

References:

  1. Chapman M. Tobacco-like warning label for social media sought by US surgeon general who asks Congress to act. Associated Press. Updated June 17, 2024. Accessed June 25, 2024. https://apnews.com/article/surgeon-general-social-media-mental-health-df321c791493863001754401676f165c
  2. Murthy V. Surgeon general: Why I'm calling for a warning label on social media platforms. The New York Times. June 17, 2024. Accessed June 25, 2024.

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