EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Social media is a big part of many teens’ lives. It allows teens to create online identities, communicate with others, and build social networks, but what impact does it have on their mental health?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 95 % of kids between 13 and 17 years of age use social media. One in three reports using the online platforms almost constantly. with an uptick in social media usage among teens, there’s also been an increase in teen mental health issues like anxiety and depression, but there are ways parents can safeguard their kids’ online interactions and prevent the pitfalls related to online usage.

“My goal is to not do it all but it’s very addictive,” said Rubner.

12-year-old Margot Rubner enjoys scrolling through TikTok but is aware of its negative impact.

“For one it’s exhausting looking at screens all the time and always scrolling, it strains your eyes. For some people, TikTok people are showing themselves dancing or wearing small clothing, it can really harm your positive energy and mental health,” says Rubner.

In 2022, a Pew research study found YouTube and TikTok as the most popular platforms used almost daily among teens 13-17, followed by Instagram and Snapchat. teens use social media for entertainment and self-expression however, social media use can also negatively affect teens; distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, peer pressure, and unrealistic views of beauty.

“It’s tough seeing all those perfect people online and you kind of want to be like them it’s for show and there’s always mean comments,” added Rubner.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, kids who spend more than three hours a day using social media are at a higher risk for mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Social comparison and feedback-seeking online can lead to a decline in overall life satisfaction.

“They look for that constant gratification of happy things, and seeing happy faces from their friends, and positive posts but the hard part is if there are false things on there too you see a lot of doctored pictures that aren’t what they really are with filters, things you can edit,” explained Dr. Sarah Sitoski.

Dr. Sitoski offers tips to help parents limit their kids’ screen time.

“Parents can put restrictions on phones..turn it off automatically after so much time. Get more involved in activities. Some kids don’t want to do sports or clubs, go to a friend’s house, have a friend come over, do something that’s not on a screen,” continued Dr. Sitoski.

Excessive screen usage can also lead to obesity, and sleep disturbances, promote aggressive behavior, and hinder social skills.

Other tips to minimize screen time full-screen tips to limit screen time:

  • Don’t allow screens during meals
  • Discourage screen use in the car
  • Plan family fun nights
  • Learn to accept boredom or less stimulating activities
  • Model responsible social media behavior

“I don’t pay too much attention to girls on TikTok because I know it can get a little bit addictive to try to be like them,” says Margot.

Research has found teen girls and LGBTQ kids are more likely to experience cyberbullying and online harassment.

If you or your teen is experiencing signs of anxiety, or depression related to social media talk to your child’s healthcare provider.