Is Social Media Really Driving Us Insane?

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been around a little over a decade, and 10 years since the launch of the iPhone.  Pinterest, Instagram and the iPad have only been around for seven years and Snapchat for six.  Americans’ use of this technology and social media has grown at a striking pace.  The 2017 Stress in American survey from the American Psychological Association reported that 7% of U.S. adults used social media in 2005.  This had grown by 2015 to 65% and 90% among 18 to 29 year olds, which is up from 12%.

More than 2 billion users sign on to Facebook and Instagram every month.  Around 86% of U.S. adults own a computer, 75% an Internet connected smartphone and 55% a tablet, according to the APA survey.  Over ½ of the adults say they can’t imagine life without their cellphones, but staying online and connected 24/7 has its downfalls.

It’s reported that 43% of Americans are constant checkers of their email, text messages and social media accounting constantly throughout the day.  They may be sacrificing their health as a result.  Non-checkers report a stress level of 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 10 and the constant checkers’ average stress level was 5.3.  Technology itself is a source of stress for some Americans.  Constant checkers are more likely to report feeling disconnected from family due to technology.  Another 42% noted that they worry social media may be having negative effects on their physical and mental health.

Technology is affecting the family units, and not necessarily for the better.  About 72% of parents said they believed they were making a healthy relationship with technology for their children while 58% felt they were attached to their cellphone or tablet.  They believe their child is also attached to their phone or tablet while 48% reported regulating their child’s screen time as a constant battle with their child.  Teens’ emotional health may be tied to social media and the U.S. teen spends about 9 hours daily using media.  Research is linking screen time to increased sedentary behavior and trouble sleeping as well as the teens’ emotional health is often tied to their social media accounts.

About 94% of parents try to manage their kids’ technology usage during the school year.  Some management strategies included not allowing cellphones at the dinner table, unplugging or taking a digital detox from time to time, not allowing devices during family time, not allowing devices during time with friends, turning off notifications for social media apps and limiting time spent watching TV each day.  All children should be followed on each social network they have joined to keep tabs on your child’s social media activity.  If your teen appears sad after receiving a text, ask him/her about it as there is much fighting happening on social media and we need to be up to date on our children’s psychological well-being and erase any negative effects of online conflicts.

Veto any texting while driving as this raises your crash risk six-fold and puts your child and passengers at risk.  The National Safety Council recommends making a personal commitment to drive cell phone free, turn the phone off or put it on silent while driving, as a passenger ask the driver if you can handle the phone call for them, change the voicemail message that you are away or driving and if you are talking to someone driving in a car, hang up and call them later.

Let’s all strive to live better and possibly longer with our devices by allowing notifications only while driving.

Dr Fredda Branyon