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Parentology: Can Social Media Exposure Affect a Child’s Mental Health?

Parentology, an online website designed for parenting in the digital age, recently interviewed Rebecca Hedrick, MD, a psychiatrist at Cedars-Sinai in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, about how social media can affect children's mental health.

The article cited several studies, including one from JAMA Pediatrics that showed children who have a lot of screen time when they are two can experience developmental problems--affecting motor coordination, communication skills and problem-solving ability--by the time they are five years old.

Hedrick told Parentology that she advises parents that young children shouldn’t have access to social media.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two, except for video chat. Studies show screen time causes hyperactivity and attention deficit issues. For kids between the ages of two and five the academy 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,” instead of being lulled by a computer game, Hedrick told Parentology. “The inability to self-regulate their emotions can make them susceptible to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorder when they get older.”

Hedrick added that for preschoolers, “screen time should be supervised. There should be face-to-face interaction with someone else, not just the screen.”

But what about those children who freak out when the screen is taken away? Hedrick says it’s an important that parents stand their ground and not give in. 

“They need to learn a temper tantrum is not the way to get what one wants,” Hedrick advises. “Giving in teaches them the only way to self-soothe is through the screen.” Instead, she says, “parents should teach children how to handle strong emotions and come up with other activities to manage their boredom.”

Click here to read the story from Parentology.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: How to Talk to Your Kids About a Tragedy