Overuse of social media may have devastating effect on teens

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Right now, social media is one of the main ways kids communicate. But, social media doesn't come with a training manual, for kids or their parents. One Lincoln family, who wanted to remain anonymous said, overuse of social media drastically impacted their child's health.

The family said putting a cellphone and social media into the hands of a teenager is like putting your child behind the wheel of a car without any training. The father said it's a powerful tool, with potentially devastating effects.

"As parents you try to create the boundaries and you're working hard to give them good morals and ethics," said the Lincoln-based parents. "The area of the phone is different because it's so hard to monitor."

This new way of communicating creates challenges for parents and schools. Professionals within the school system said all the social media use has led to an increase in anxiety and depression.

While not a formal diagnosis, two Harvard-trained psychiatrists, Dr. Marketa Wills and Dr. Carlin Barnes, said social media depression is happening.

According to Wills and Barnes, it's an intense pressure and eventual isolation, all because of social media overuse.

"It's exhausting for kids, and at the end of the day, it has got to take a toll on their mental well-being," said Lincoln Lancaster County SCIP Coordinator Abbe Edgecombe.

For this Lincoln family, social media depression has put their family to the test.

"Quite frankly, our family has been through hell and back with this," they said.

Researchers from John Hopkins University studied nearly 6,600 teens and found overall, social media use was associated with a greater risk of becoming socially withdrawn, anxiety and depression the following year. The teens were also more likely to act out, disobey and be aggressive. But even for parents, depression and anxiety can be hard to spot.

"Is it just their mood for the day or is there something more to it?" the mother reflected.

The family encouraged everyone to overcome the stigma of mental health issues and to not stop seeking help until you get answers.

"Don't give up on your child," said the mother. "Don't give up on your family, because there are resources out there.

Wills and Barnes said the most telling signs of social media depression include: spending considerable amounts of time on social media rather than engaging in face-to-face interactions, hyper-focus on appearance and excessive comparisons.