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Report: Social Media May Be Linked To A Sharp Rise In Mental Health Issues In Young People

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A new report finds social media may be linked to a sharp rise in mental health issues among young people.

"I probably check it every 15 minutes, 10 minutes even," said 17-year-old Ruby Fair. She's talking about her phone.

"FOMO - fear of missing out - is such a thing," she said. "On Snapchat stories, if you see all your friends are hanging out, or you see people that you're not even friends with hanging out."

"If you don't have social media, you're not cool. Or, let's say you don't have enough friends, you're not popular," said 19-year-old Iyanna Wright.

Teenagers told CBS2's Cindy Hsu they're not surprised research published by the American Psychological Association found possible links between social media and skyrocketing rates of mental health issues among young people, including anxiety, major depression and suicidal thoughts.

Between 2005 and 2017, kids ages 12-17 had a 52 percent increase of symptoms and depressive episodes. Young people from 18-25 saw a 71 percent increase of symptoms of psychological distress.

Researchers found the greatest spike in 2011, around the time social media really took hold.

"They want to be famous. They want to be Instagram famous, they want to be Snapchat famous, Facebook famous," said 16-year-old Noelani Wilkinson.

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere of the Touro College of Medicine says these days young people are measuring their success through the unrealistic lens of social media. Dr. Gardere says parents can look for red flags that indicate there's an issue.

"It interferes with completing their homework, where they're too tired to be more productive in class and of course that social isolation that they'd like to spend more time on their devices than with other kids," Gardere said.

Experts say if there's a problem, parents need to limit their kids' screen time and encourage more social activities. Experts also say if parents are trying to reduce their kids' screen time, they need to take a look at their own social media habits, since children often mirror their parents' behavior.

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