A new study shows a child’s mental health may suffer in a big way if they’re allowed to access social media from the age of two. The study done by UK-based charity group Barnado raises concerns about how social media exposure at a young age can affect kids and their communication skills.
Rebecca Berry, PhD, Clinical Professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, tells Parentology research finds social media usage is associated with lowered self-esteem due to others who appear happier.
“There’s also a strong connection between higher social media usage and poor sleep quality,” Berry says.
One of the big problems the study pointed out is the issue of parents giving their little ones a device to keep them busy and quiet with no idea of what they’re watching.
What Problems Can Too Much Screen Time Cause?
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year reported kids who spend a lot of time in front of a screen when they’re two years old have developmental problems when they reach ages three to five. Specifically, their motor and communication skills, as well as problem-solving skills, are affected in a negative way. Researchers say it’s not clear whether screen time is entirely to blame. Factors like their home life and upbringing can also play a role.
Rebecca Hedrick, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at Cedars Sinai in California, tells Parentology, young children shouldn’t have access to any social media. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time for kids under two, except for video chat. Studies show it causes hyperactivity and attention deficit issues. For kids between the ages of two and five the AAP recommends one hour a day of high-quality programming.
”This is an important time of development and kids need to learn how to self soothe,” Hedrick says. “The inability to self-regulate their emotions can make them susceptible to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorder when they get older.”
Limiting Screen Time
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO), issued its own warning about how much screen time kids should have. As Parentology reported in February, the WHO recommended no screen time for kids under two with no more than one hour for two-year-olds.
But, stats show kids are spending a whole lot more time in front of screens than that. The US National Library of Medicine reports most American kids spend anywhere from five to seven hours a day in front of some type of screen, whether it’s a TV, phone, iPad or other device.
“For preschoolers, screen time should be supervised,” Hedrick says. “There should be face-to-face interaction with someone else, not just the screen.”
Easing the Transition
Berry tells Parentology parents should research the sites of interest to their children and join themselves. “It’s helpful for parents to establish ground rules related to overall internet safety and technology use when their child is first given exposure to these devices.”
If your kids freak out when you take the screen away, they need to learn a temper tantrum is not the way to get what one wants. Hedrick advises against giving in, which teaches them the only way to self-soothe is through the screen. She says parents should teach children how to handle strong emotions and come up with other activities to manage their boredom.
Rebecca Hedrick, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at Cedars Sinai in California
Rebecca Berry, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health.
U.S. National Library of Medicine