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I Need You To Go Read This Collection of Research about Teens and Social Media

The article I will link to is political about the governor of Utah’s attempts to ban minors from using social media, but that’s not the important part.

The important part is that Mike Masnick collected and linked to some overwhelming research that shows that there is no massive mental health risk to kids using social media. For some kids, some social media types can worsen an existing condition. Still, for many, the benefits of openly interacting with peers and other advocates are quite helpful to mental health. At the end of the day, there is no proof that social media generally causes mental health issues.

To quote from the article:

That’s not to say there isn’t some sort of mental health crisis going on these days. Almost every expert believes there absolutely is. It’s just that the rush to blame it on social media is simply unsupported by the data. If anything, as the Journal of Pediatrics study shows, it’s the lack of open spaces where kids can be kids without parents watching their every move (which predates the rise of social media) that may contribute the most to the rise in mental health issues among children. Thus, the simplistic, and almost certainly wrong, argument that social media is to blame may even make the problem worse, because social media has become the one place left where kids often can just be kids without parents hovering over them.

Mike makes a valid point. In our panicked efforts to protect children from the potential downfalls of social media, and there are plenty, we might actually be blocking them from the one place that also offers them information and support that they aren’t getting anywhere else and the one place where they can develop the skills to navigate people, information, and relationships that haven’t already been navigated for them.

More importantly, for those of us trying to advocate for mental health, we need to realize that there is no simple answer. Turning off all of social media is not going to cure the mental health crisis. It won’t change everything that is going on in all of our lives and across the world. Pretending that we’d all have much better mental health if we just killed off Instagram or TikTok isn’t going to make the county’s mental health problems go away.

So why aren’t we discussing the harder problems that have some proven research to show the negative effects on children’s lives? School shootings, violence, racism, oppression of LGTBQ and minorities, poverty, lack of access to mental health care, etc.

Is blocking kids from using TikTok going to solve any of those problems?

As I mentioned, go read the bulleted and fully referenced list of research before you go on spreading the lie that this is somehow a social media problem. It’s not. It’s a much wider issue than that.

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