Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh, Consultant – Mental Health and Behavioural Science, Artemis Hospital Gurugram warned on Thursday that teenagers are today spending excessive time on social media, which is adversely impacting their mental health.
“Today, our lives have become predominantly online due to covid and its aftereffects, be it work, school, or catching up with friends. As teenagers spend majority of their time on social media, it results in them becoming more introverted and they begin to face difficulties in making friends and talking to people. Teenagers are being guided by a virtual, fake world where there is immense competition, comparative issues, financial hardships, and fleeting, multiple relationships,” Dr Rachna Khanna Singh said in a statement.
According to the doctor, the sedentary lifestyle has given rise to various addictions be it gaming, social media, pornography, or gambling addiction. According to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five teenagers, aged 13-18, will have a mental illness. 11 percent of the population would suffer from a mood disorder like depression, or bipolar disorder and 8 percent would be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder like GAD, panic disorder, OCD, or social anxiety disorder, the doctor claimed.
“Children today are more concerned about their followers on social media rather than developing friendships in flesh and blood. This could negatively affect teenagers by distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and could expose them to bullying, rumour spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and immense peer pressure. Behavioural changes like not spending enough time with friends and family, being aloof and low, spending more time on the phone and in the room, having a drastic change in academic results and seeing changes in mood and behaviour are concerning and should be looked into urgently,” Singh added.
Mental health and psychological issues being witnessed in children today are depression, anxiety, loneliness, ADHD, eating disorders, behavioural issues, parent-child bonding issues, identity crisis, peer pressure, relationship issues be it parent-child or amongst friends, sexual concerns, and abuse/violence. Most of these can be attributed to the growing use of social media in the daily lives of children/adolescents today. Furthermore, it also could lead to an identity crisis as there is a major tussle between virtual relationships and real relationships today.
“For Parents, educating younger kids on the risks of social media is of paramount importance. Their device time must be restricted to maintain a healthy balance and certain sites and webpages should be filtered through site blockers for age-appropriate viewing. Parents could also utilize cyberbullying resources, could stay up to date on their child’s privacy settings and should set ground rules for social media use. It is also crucial to understand that communication is not built overnight. It must be developed slowly and gradually over a period of time. Gentle communication should be practiced through effective ways like engaging one’s child in routine conversations, be it about news or worldly affairs, information about relatives and family life, personal tales, etc. Moreover, having at least one family meal a deal would greatly complement this practice. Furthermore, restricting activity or movement will do you no good, until and unless it is for younger children,” Dr Rachna Khanna Singh informed.
Various studies from across the world clearly indicate a deep link between high levels of social media use and depression or anxiety symptoms. Multiple studies show that people who use social media excessively, do so because they are either bored, need an escape from their immediate physical environment, are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, are lonely, have few real-time friends or need to feel appreciated and validated.
As more children and teenagers are drawn towards cell phones and technology, it is in their best interest that parents take substantial interest in physical activities. Instead of just stopping children usage of technology, parents need to understand that they need to set examples by their own actions.