Back to School Brings Concerns Over Social Media and Mental Health

As kids head back to school, parents say they worry about social media and the use of the internet negatively impacting their children.

According to the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, mental health is another top worry.

“Parents still view problems directly impacting physical health, including unhealthy eating and obesity, as important children’s health issues, said pediatrician Dr. Susan Woolford, co-director of the poll.

“But these have been overtaken by concerns about mental health, social media and screen time,” Woolford said in a Michigan Medicine news release.

In fact, two-thirds of parents surveyed reported that they are concerned about their child’s increased time on devices, including overall screen time and use of social media. Those were the No.1 and No.2 concerns on the list this year.

“Children are using digital devices and social media at younger ages, and parents may struggle with how to appropriately monitor use to prevent negative impacts on safety, self-esteem, social connections and habits that may interfere with sleep and other areas of health,” Woolford said.

Experts say, screen time became a growing concern for parents during the pandemic. Researchers have warned that too much screen time can be detrimental for children’s well being. 

The concern is perhaps heightened for Black parents sending their children back to school. Studies report that Black teens are more likely to use certain social media platforms—especially platforms that are designed for use on smart phones.

According to a study conducted in 2017 by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Black teens have demonstrated a consistent higher use of social media practices when compared to other races. 

  • 86 percent of black teens use Snapchat; 71 percent of white teens do so.
  • 35 percent of black teens use Tumblr compared with 22 percent of white teens.
  • 17 percent of black teens use LinkedIn; just 7 percent of white teens say the same.
  • 40 percent of black teens say they use Snapchat almost constantly and 33 percent say the same for Instagram. Just 22 percent of white teens say they use Snapchat that frequently; for Instagram, it is 19 percent.

According to the poll, the majority of parents view depression, suicide, stress, anxiety, and related topics like bullying as big problems. In addition, about half of those surveyed said they were concerned about the lack of mental health services.’

“The mismatch between the growing number of youth with mental health concerns and the limited access to mental health services has serious implications for children’s well-being,” Woolford said.

School violence is another concern. Woolford noted that changes to the school environment, such as metal detectors, armed guards and locked doors, as well as active shooter drills, may be reminders of the potential for violence.

“Parents may want to talk with their child periodically about how safe they feel at school and what they’ve heard about violent incidents,” Woolford said. “They should tailor the information to their child’s age and avoid sharing graphic details while offering reassurance about safety measures that their school has in place.”

Read More About General