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Teens may be increasing social media use during COVID-19

Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 8:09 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A report done by a Chicago children’s hospital is showing that 63% of parents have seen their teen’s social media use increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago says it recently polled almost 3,000 current or recent parents of teenagers in order to understand their concerns and challenges with social media as well as trends in their behavior.

According to the study, 58% of parents think social media has negatively affected their teen. It said their top concerns around social media are their child not getting enough sleep, not getting enough physical activity, not focusing enough on school work, having an unhealthy need for approval or attention and not getting enough face to face interaction.

“It’s important for parents to keep in mind, research on the correlation between digital technology use and adolescent mental health is still in its infancy, relatively speaking,” said Claire Coyne, PhD, Pediatric Psychologist in The Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s. “One thing that stands out in recent research is that many of the early studies that inform public opinion of the effects of adolescent digital technology use have focused only on the negative effects and been based on weak correlational data (Odgers & Jensen, 2020).”

The study shows that 68% of parents believe social media affects their teenager’s ability to socialize normally, while 67% are concerned about their teen being addicted to social media. It said the most concerning platforms for parents seem to be Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube.

“Beyond generational differences, parents should also be mindful of age differences and how they may spur unnecessary judgement,” says Dr. Coyne. “During adolescence, the importance of peer relationships, concern about status among peers and identity exploration are all central developmental processes. The way that young people use social media as part of these developmental processes may be new, but not necessarily different.”

According to the report, 63% of parents have said their teen’s social media use has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 45% of parents are appreciative of social media during the crisis and only 39% are increasingly concerned about their teen’s social media presence.

Lastly, the study said 80% of parents have made rules around phone and social media usage, while 43% use an app to monitor or restrict device and internet use and 50% have censored posts from their children.

“One of the most important takeaways from this investigation is that we need more research to understand both positive and negative effects of social media use, and to explore the potential for new technologies to support mental health and well-being,” said Dr. Coyne. “All screen time is not equal. We encourage parents to think less about the blunt measurement of screen time, and more carefully about how their children spend time on devices and what that means for their social development. Parents should consider whether or not online activities are enhancing social support and facilitating social connectedness versus negative interactions that focus on social comparisons and reduce time spent in in-person interactions.”

To read the full study, click here.

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