A new survey from WebMD suggests that teens who turn to social media and their devices for stress relief actually end up experiencing more stress due to a strong isolation element social networks provide.
Of the 576 parents surveyed with children ages 13-15, 55% of them said they would rate their child’s stress level as moderate to high.
And all of that stress, the survey suggests, stems from their addiction to and use of devices and social media.
Local experts say it is a problem that kids are turning to virtual worlds to satisfy their social needs.
“When children are communicating or young adults are communicating over texts they are not getting the same social cues or the physical cues for communicating,” said Dr. David Hutzel, an internist of Greenfield Internal Medicine, part of UPMC Hamot. “They don’t pick up on the facial gestures or the body positions. [Online], they are constantly being measured against some unknown ideal that they can’t seem to measure up to so the more that they use [social media], they are constantly comparing themselves.”
This vicious cycle of seeking stress relief but ultimately becoming more stressed also leads to anti-social activity and a lack of real-world communication, says Hutzel.
“We see more and more people that are developing what is called Agoraphobia or social phobia and are more and more withdrawn, rather than what you would think in this ideal world that they have painted on their computer or on the phone,” he said. “
Another local expert on how technology affects the communication skills of young people, Dawn Blasko at Penn State Behrend, says technology offers up instant gratification.
It’s the pursuit of that instant happiness, Blasko says, that keeps kids going back time and time again.
“If you don’t keep up on what’s happening in your social network by constantly checking your phone you feel left out and left behind,” Blasko said. “I think they are both a device for staying connected but they can also be a device for bullying, they can be a device that sets people apart.”
Blasko says while devices do keep kids connected, entertained, and sometimes fulfilled, they can also do the exact opposite if screen time is not limited.
“Someone could make comments about what you’re wearing or they may call you fat or or they can make a comment about someone you really care about,” she says. “In all of those cases, it can subtly take your mood from being relatively positive to negative. So it’s a stressor in a lot of ways I mean people turn to it for support but they also end up sometimes being hurt. These social interactions people have, have moved off the playground and onto the phones.”
Blasko suggests parents limit their child’s screen time, and make sure they set rules on when devices can and cannot be used.
For kids who feel depressed as a result of their social media interaction and feel they want to harm themselves, there is a digital way they can receive help if they are more comfortable doing so that way. It’s called the Crisis Text Line.
For more information on the CRISIS TEXT LINE – CLICK HERE.