Social Media and Teen Depression – Is there a link?

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on November 16, 2017

The relationship one has with their social media devices is just that, a relationship. Some have a healthy relationship with social media and some do not. I have often spoken about this very topic on TV on various news programs discussing that our phone has become an appendage. In my counseling practice, social media has become a common topic with families as a source of reported challenge. I address the importance of being present in life, specifically staying in the now vs. drawn in by the social media lure. In my most recent interview on The Ingraham Angle on FOX News, we tackled the important discussion addressing a potential link between social media and teen depression, specifically teen suicide. This is in response to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Psychological Science. Today’s blog article includes: 1) the link to my interview, 2) the validity of the study, 3) my theory as to why the potential link between social media and teen depression, 4) advice for parents. 

The Study:

Experts are not in agreement as to whether one can say with validity and certainty that the rise in social media is a direct causation to the rise in teen suicides. Is there a correlation, are the two linked? Many experts agree that data presenting itself infers there is. Though please note there are other factors that go into suicide and thus one cannot reliably state: social media is the direct cause only. 

My theory as to why the rise in social media and the rise in teen depression may be linked:

  1. Too much time looking at other’s lives and not living your own. If with consistency more of the time in your day is spent on social media rather than engaging in real time activities, you are not going to feel well emotionally or physically. Symptoms of depression can indeed ensue.
  2. Feelings of exclusion (e.g., Pictures of social events, parties and activities others are doing and you are not) can lead teenagers to feel depressed.
  3. Home used to be a safe haven, a place to take a break from the bedlam of the day, of other’s moods and social interaction. Now there is no escaping from the intensity of others. Whether it is painful negative dialogue from one teen to another, or the extremism of bullying, there is no escaping this when you get home if you are attached to your social media device.

Advice for parents of teens:

  1. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to live in fear to communicate with their teen about the topic of depression, and/or suicide, fearing they will cause suicide. No! If parents don’t feel comfortable talking about it, then teens won’t feel comfortable talking about it with you. So, bring up the topic. Kids need to know you “have their back” and that they can talk to you about anything.
  2. Take words of suicidal thoughts seriously. If your teen reports any suicidal feelings don’t be afraid to get help. Parents fear their child will be locked up, or their teen will get mad at them if they get help. Rather get help then the alternative.
  3. Live with your eyes wide open (involved parenting, watch their mood/behaviors).
  4. Rules: create social media/electronic (phone, ipad, laptop), ground rules. Don’t fear being called a helicopter parent. And don’t be a permissive parent either. Either end of the spectrum does not work, you are the parent, it is your duty to protect your kids. A healthy balance of social media in your teens lives is key.

The Interview – Dr. Ruskin on The Ingraham Angle

If you missed this informative interview live on air, it is available for on demand viewing: Is there a link between the rise of social media and the rise of teen suicide?

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