New report links social media use to mental distress in teens

Review highlights potentially harmful impact of social media

Last Updated Feb 10, 2020 10:38 PM EST

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A new review of several studies shows the potentially harmful impact of social media use on teenagers. It confirms what many parents have long feared.

The results in the Canadian Medical Association Journal finds social media use is linked to mental distress, self-harm and suicide. More than two hours of social media use a day is associated with higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in girls.

In one study, girls reported feeling negative after 10 minutes of browsing Facebook. The more time, the greater the risk. It's something 17-year-old Maya Behl can attest to. 

"I become more isolated when I'm on social media. Even though it's supposed to be a connector, it's honestly very isolating," she said.

According to the review, kids who spend less time socializing in person are more vulnerable, and easy access to information about how to commit suicide online increases risk. Carol Deely's 12-year-old son, Gabriel, took his life just over a year ago. Her organization, Gabriel's Light, helps promote safe technology use.

"Kids can't get away from all this peer pressure and I think its just terrible. I wouldn't want to be a child right now," Deely said.

Researchers said parents should talk to their kids about the risks of social media. Instead of banning it, they should limit screen time both for their kids, and themselves, to set a good example.