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Chronically Online: How States are Tackling Social Media and Mental Health

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In today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, adolescents are increasingly connected online. With up to 95% of teenagers, and even 40% of children aged 8-12 on social media, this surge in digital participation has sparked concerns regarding its detrimental effects on adolescent mental health among parents and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have declared a youth mental health crisis equity and opportunity.

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In this episode of the Flash, we are diving into a critical issue – the impact of social media on adolescent health.

Social media can create communities, and it can also impact students’ mental health.

In today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, adolescents are increasingly connected online.

With up to 95% of teenagers, and even 40% of children aged 8-12, on social media, this surge in digital participation has sparked significant concerns. Parents and the American Academy of Pediatrics have raised alarms, declaring a youth mental health crisis.

Over the last decade, the number of children and adolescents facing mental health challenges has risen sharply.

Many point to technology, particularly social media, as a major factor. While for some, technology and social media can exacerbate mental health issues by promoting body dissatisfaction, lowering self-esteem, and contributing to depression, for others, it serves as a crucial tool for fostering connections in our interconnected world.

Balancing the benefits and drawbacks of technology usage requires careful consideration.

Acknowledging the gaps in our understanding of the complete impact of social media on mental health is crucial, as is recognizing its significant role in the current mental health crisis.

This underscores the need for a nuanced approach that addresses both perspectives.

States are taking proactive measures to address growing concerns about social media’s impact on student mental health.

For example, New York’s Assembly Bill 4136 proposes a statewide youth mental health and social media campaign to raise public awareness.

Colorado’s House Bill 24-1136 aims to equip schools with resources and curricula to mitigate social media’s negative mental health effects, incorporating social media education into anti-bullying initiatives.

New Jersey’s Assembly Bill 3918 emphasizes addressing social media in school bullying prevention efforts.

Tennessee’s Senate Bill 2372 requires social media companies to obtain parental consent for minors and prohibits features contributing to addiction.

Kentucky’s House Bill 767 focuses on implementing social media safety guidelines in schools, offering instruction for students and an opt-out option for parents.

President Biden has made tackling the mental health crisis a top priority. In May 2023, he announced actions to safeguard children’s privacy, health, and safety from online harms.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allocated $2 million to the American Academy of Pediatrics to establish a National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness.

This center will focus on researching and disseminating information, guidance, and training on social media’s impact on young people’s mental health and explore interventions to prevent and mitigate associated risks.

As our world becomes increasingly digitally connected, it’s crucial to continually assess social media’s impact on student mental health.

Policies must strike a delicate balance, protecting our children while fostering age-appropriate digital exploration.

And as federal and state governments develop policies, it’s imperative to center students’ voices and ensure that students play an active role in informing these policies.

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