"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Do they unlock higher mental health for young people?

This week, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called. Health warnings on social media For young users. This latest call follows an earlier one. Social media and youth mental health advisoryAlso published by the Surgeon General.

Health warnings on social media might be much like those on cigarette packages, serving as a reminder to oldsters and young people of the mental health risks of social media. The Surgeon General also emphasized on making schools a phone-free environment. Although in his op-ed, Murthy acknowledged that the research on these topics is just not yet conclusive, he also noted that we “Don't have the luxury of waiting for perfect information.

Concerns in regards to the effects of smartphone use and social media on the mental health of kids and adolescents are usually not recent. But they've been reinvigorated as recent caveats are being proposed and implemented to limit their use. Countries have imposed bans or restrictions on smart phones. around the world However, how these restrictions work in practice varies. Several Canadian provinces Such restrictions are also being enforced.

Although these efforts are well-intentioned, and intended to assist young people, the research supporting these practices remains to be patchy. As child development and psychology researchers, we feel it is vital to review relevant research and discuss the professionals and cons of smartphone bans and social media health warnings.

The Impact of Smartphones and Social Media

Our research shows that excessive screen time is related to negative physical, behavioral and cognitive outcomes. One reason screen time is problematic is that it interferes with other activities which might be related to well-being, corresponding to physical activity, interactions with family and friends, and academic pursuits.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a ceremony on the White House complex in Washington in April 2024. Murthy is asking the Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms much like those displayed on cigarette packs.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Some, but not all, studies show that social media use is related to this. More anxiety and depression symptoms In adolescents, the pressure to realize social validation and likes and followers can increase stress and anxiety in adolescents. Additionally, social media can result in cyberbullying and negative social interactions, which in turn are related to poor mental health.

The use of social media amongst teenagers can also be related to it. Body image issuesEspecially in girls. Social media can present filtered and unrealistic beauty standards that result in dissatisfaction with one's own body.

It's necessary to notice that these studies are correlational, and never meant to prove causation.

In terms of the consequences of smartphones on attention, use could be distracting to young people. For example, research shows that students can Take 20 minutes to refocus After being distracted by our smartphones.

Pros and Cons of Cell Phone Bans

Banning smartphones from classrooms will reduce student focus, especially for youth who're struggling in class. Without the necessity to police smartphone use, teachers may also make the classroom more focused on academic learning.

A girl looking at a smartphone with a cluster of other children with phones in the background.
Banning cell phones in schools is not going to eliminate cyberbullying, which might occur outside of faculty hours, so it's critical to coach students, parents, and teachers on how you can recognize, prevent, and reply to cyberbullying. Is.
(Shutterstock)

Banning smartphones may also help protect youth from cyberbullying that may occur during class time. However, banning smartphones in schools is not going to eliminate cyberbullying, which might occur outside of faculty hours, so educating students, parents and teachers on how you can recognize, prevent and take care of cyberbullying is crucial. It is crucial.



Conversely, banning smartphones in school can have harmful effects for some youth. For example, LGBTQ+ youth use social media. Create a community Where they'll get help, share information, and develop their identity. Limiting access to a spot where they'll feel protected and belong can increase their mental health difficulties.

Could social media health warnings be the answer?

The effectiveness of warning labels relies on their form. Research shows that the warning label are more effective in promoting safe use.

In the case of social media, this implies improving social media literacy. For example, warning labels remind consumers of what to search for. Social media is not always representative of real lifeand this reminder can assist reduce the negative effects of online social comparison.

Sitting at the desk in the classroom looking at the smartphone.
Research shows that social media warning labels that promote protected use are simpler than those geared toward limiting use.
(Shutterstock)

Also social media warning labels Make media platforms more responsive. Platforms create and design features to maximise usability, leveraging user engagement. Warning labels can assist make users more aware of how these platforms profit from their use, highlighting the potential dangers of overuse.



Although social media labels cannot directly deter young users from overuse, they'll achieve this not directly through increased parental supervision. In fact, parents usually tend to set limits knowing that there may be evidence that the product their child or youth is using is related to some risk.

Conversely, warning labels that concentrate on moderating or stopping social media use could also be less effective. They can promote a negative self-concept in users, corresponding to considering “I know I shouldn't use social media, but I can't stop because I have no self-control.” This doesn't represent a superb start line for motivating change.

Other contributors to youth mental health and learning problems

Given the shortage of evidence for the consequences of social media on mental health problems, it's necessary to do not forget that banning smartphones from classrooms is just not a panacea.

The necessary thing is that this. Does not solve many root problems Mental health problems in young people, corresponding to cyberbullying.

Social media is an element amongst many, as young persons are currently experiencing high rates of mental health difficulties. Other aspects include structural discrimination, economic hardship, and social isolation which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing exclusively on social media is not going to address the mental health challenges facing young people today.



Therefore, comprehensive initiatives corresponding to increasing school funding for mental health and digital literacy, in addition to strengthening the provision of extracurricular activities could be effective ways to support young people.

It is encouraging that policymakers are paying more attention to youth mental health and its causes, but it is vital to work at multiple levels to support youth mental health and learning.