How does social media impact teens' mental health?

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As technology continues to improve, it is becoming incredibly difficult to unplug. Smartphones, tablets and computers are smaller than ever so we can have access at any given moment. The new popular question is becoming, "What is the Wi-Fi password?" Dinner settings and social events are flooded with people scrolling through social media rather than being in the moment.

Is this desire to always be connected actually disconnecting us?

Today's adolescents have grown up during this technology boom. They have had access to a lifestyle that adults never dreamed of in the past.

The days of wondering what your friends are doing when you are not around are over. There is a constant need to always be connected, and it is as easy as the scroll of a finger.

But what impact is this having on teens and their mental health?

The human brain continues to develop in youth until the early to mid-20s. This means that the adolescent brain is still developing in areas such as attention, decision-making, impulse control, logical thinking and personality.

These are all imperative aspects of development that are now being influenced by social media.

Research shows that a majority of adolescents have easy access to social media, and that it is has serious potential for addiction.

Receiving "likes" on their pictures or status updates become positive reinforcements that condition them to do it again and again.

Some researchers in Norway just created the "Berge Facebook Addiction Scale" to determine the severity of someone's addiction. There are also rehab options for addicted individuals.

In addition, social media can be linked to depression and self-image issues. Each time they sign on, they are prone to comparing their lives with everyone else's highlight reel. They are flooded with seeing the best times in the lives of others - and how can that ever compare to the mundane day-to-day life that is reality?

How do we combat this? Be honest with your teens. They might battle for freedom and independence, but educate them on the facts above. Work with them on creating a healthy reasonable restriction on the amount of time they spend on social media.

The more they can remain alive in the real world, the better. However, there are times when it is not that easy, or it may have already gone too far.

If this is the case, it might be effective to seek out support from a therapist.

Philip Searcy MSW, LISW-CP is a therapist for adults and adolescents with Psychological and Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.

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Health & Wellness
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