Expert concerned with increased social media usage’s impact on children’s mental health

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 1:55 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Some local health care providers are concerned about an increasing number of children with mental health concerns.

“What I’m really hearing is at a younger age, children are demonstrating behaviors that are more serious and concerning and more often,” Memorial Health Behavioral Health Manager Mary Jo Horton said.

She said she’s seeing a growing number of younger children coming into her office and she believes increased social media use is part of the problem.

“I think the use of filters, particularly with social media, is so devastating because we’re not even looking at ourselves,” Horton said.

She encourages parents to set restrictions on social media but also to have conversations with their children about how they use it.

“What are their benefits, what do they struggle with on social media, that could really help,” she said.

She also said it may be helpful to restrict phone use at certain times of the night.

Horton said parents can also help by not using filters themselves.

“The other big portion is you’ve got to be able to lead by example,” she said.

If your child is showing signs of hopelessness, she encourages seeking help right away.

“Making an appointment with a therapist and just saying, ‘I may need to bring my child in, these are all the things that are going on, can I have some guidance and feedback? Is just a great place to start,” Horton said.

Another place you can start is by turning to organizations like the YMCA, the Children’s Advocacy Center, and faith-based groups for intervention.

“We are a more resource rich environment than we think even though we’re still not enough,” Horton said.

Horton highlights a need for more wrap around services in our community for children who need it. Although self-harm is a hard topic to address, she says we can all help our children by talking about it.

“The real answer is more conversation. Let us be distressed so that we can see more wellness,” Horton said.

Another resource she points to is the National Suicide Hotline – 988.