WENY News - The Growing Concern Surrounding Social Media and Mental Health

The Growing Concern Surrounding Social Media and Mental Health

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HORSEHEADS, NY (WENY) --  There's a growing concern surrounding social media. From how it's being used to the greater impact it's having on the next generation.

A Pew Research Center study shows in 2015, 24% of teenagers were online "almost constantly." That number jumps to 92% when you look at the number of teens going online daily. And those numbers aren't likely to decline anytime soon.

Jeff Delorem, Assistant Superintendent for Administrator Services at the Corning-Painted Post School District says, "our job is to teach them to use it properly in the right context. And to use it in a constructive way... a positive way."

From Facebook and Instagram to Snapchat and Twitter, they're sharing a lot about themselves. But how much of it is true?

David Shapiro from Family and Children's Services of  Ithaca says "that's the part that really worries us. When you have kids that are using these types of platforms to create some sort of false imagery. That isn't really letting people see who they are."

On top of cyberbullying and other aggression online, their mental health is also at risk.

"People that are predisposed to have depressive feelings or to have anxiety in themselves. All of a sudden they're comparing themselves to these images out there," Shapiro says.

This is now forcing school districts to meet the mental health need.

"What we've seen over the last number of years, is that there's a huge emphasis on testing and student achievement and curriculum. And those things are all fine. They're all good. But, if students aren't coming out mentally healthy and they can't cope with the challenges they face, we haven't done the whole job," Delorme says. 

You might think cutting phone out of the classroom altogether would work. But, many parents want their students to stay connected. They see cell phones as a safety device. So teachers are coming up with creative ways to incorporate them into their lesson plans, while the schools focus on the bigger picture.

"It has to be a community effort. Without other people, without parents, without families and without the other leadership and other agencies and the services that are available within the community... If we don't work together, we're not gonna' meet the need," Delorme says.

David Shapiro suggests starting a dinner table dialogue and spending time away from the screen, to get some real face time. Parents should also ask the questions they've been wanting to ask and most importantly, listening.

If none of that works, Shapiro says "you can bring them into a place where they can get seen by a professional. Where a professional can talk to them and get them to engage... in a way that you really get to the root cause of what's bothering them."

For more information on mental health services offered in your area, click here.

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