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

Restricting social media use amongst young people brings challenges and advantages

June 26, 2023 – Amelia Kennedy, 19, of Royersford, PA, a degree guard on the Catholic University of America basketball team who begins her sophomore yr in the autumn, is a daily user of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

How often? She estimates that it takes her seven hours a day and about nine hours on weekends. She is aware of the time wasted. “If my mother says, 'Unload the dishes' and I say, 'Five more minutes,' it can take longer,” she says.

Now imagine the challenge of reducing the 7 or 9 hours you spend on social media on daily basis to half-hour.

A really big task considering that 2022 Pew Research Center A survey of greater than 1,300 teens found that 35% are “almost constantly” on no less than certainly one of the five major social media platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Researchers at Iowa State University took on this daunting challenge and limited a gaggle of scholars to simply half-hour of social media per day to see what happened. Two weeks into studiesThe students reported an improvement of their psychological well-being and other vital parameters, including sleep quality, in comparison with a control group that was asked to proceed using social media as usual.

And the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out) didn't occur, the researchers said. In the tip, the scholars reconsidered their social media use and felt positive about it.

As social media use increases and the mental health of young people is in danger, experts are sounding the alarm. At the tip of May, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published a advisory on social media and youth mental health, calling on technology firms to make improvements, policymakers to enhance safety, and researchers to collect more information, amongst other things.

The Biden administration then took over Actions including the creation of a Task Force on Children’s Online Health and Safety. The American Psychological Association has recommendations on social media use by young people. And the Legal Center for Victims of Social Media in Seattle has sued quite a few social media firms for online activities which have led to deaths and other tragedies.

While experts acknowledge that far more research is required to find out learn how to balance the risks and advantages of social media to preserve young people’s mental health and stop such disasters, the brand new Iowa State study and other recent research suggest that young people Are are aware of the risks of social media and, with some guidance and data, can control themselves and limit their screen time to take care of mental health.

Goal: half-hour per day

In the Iowa State University study, 230 students were divided into two groups: 99 students used social media for half-hour a day, and 131 students were within the “usual” or control group, where no changes were made. For students within the intervention group, “we sent a reminder email every day,” says Ella Faulhaber, a doctoral student at Iowa State University and lead writer of the study. They were simply reminded to limit their social media use to half-hour or less.

At the start and end of the study, all participants provided a screenshot of their weekly social media usage time. The researchers administered a battery of tests to each groups to evaluate anxiety, depression, loneliness, fear of missing out, and negative and positive feelings.

“By limiting their social media time, they led to less anxiety, less depression, less FOMO, less negative emotions, and more positive emotions,” said Douglas Gentile, PhD, a distinguished professor of psychology at Iowa State and co-author of the study. “We know that limiting [of] social media is the cause of this.”

Faulhaber recalls one participant who initially had difficulty adjusting to the 30-minute time frame. However, as sleep improved, he found it easier to stick to this guidance. Another participant who gave up his phone before bed noted, “Instead of my phone, it was much easier to go straight to bed.”

Improving sleep obviously impacts many aspects of physical and mental health, Gentile said. And the study also showed that even with reduced screen time, “we still get the advantage of being online.” Those who didn't hit the 30-minute mark but cut back also benefited, the researchers said.

“The youth are aware of this”

Self-monitoring works, agrees Jane Harness, DO, associate clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, because “having that insight is often the first step.”

In a Study she conducted Harness wanted to gather teens' insights on how their social media use affects them. She and her colleagues asked more than 1,100 teens ages 14 to 24 what advice they would give to newcomers to social media, whether they've ever felt the need to change their social media habits, and whether they've deleted any social media accounts or are considering doing so.

Based on the 871 responses, Harness found that teens are particularly concerned about their safety online. Most of them had already considered deleting a social media app, and some had done so. Teens were also more likely to say they wanted to change the amount of time they spend on social media rather than the content they view.

“Users responded with good advice for one another,” she said. “Safety was addressed,” with users reminding others to keep their accounts private and to watch out for location tracking links and content that appears to promote eating disorders, suicide and other harms.

In his study report, Harness concludes: “Young persons are aware of the negative impacts of social media on them and, for this reason awareness, have developed methods to limit their use.”

Less FOMO, less fear

In an earlier Study, Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania had 143 college students self-monitor their social media for a week. They were then randomly assigned to either a group that was asked to limit their use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to 10 minutes per platform per day, or a group that was asked to use their social media as usual for three weeks.

At the end of the study, researchers evaluated both groups and found that the limited-use group had “significant reductions in loneliness and depression over a three-week period” compared to the regular-use group, according to study researcher Melissa G. Hunt, PhD, associate director of clinical education at the University of Pennsylvania.

And both groups showed a decrease in anxiety and fear of missing out, suggesting a benefit related to self-monitoring itself, she said.

While Hunt's study focused on 30 minutes a day, she said that “about an hour a day appears to be the optimal period of time to maximise the positive effects of socializing but limit the negative effects of social media use.”

She also suggested that smartphones should not be allowed in middle and high school classrooms and should instead be locked during class.

“Parents must set clear limits on cellphone use during mealtimes and within the bedroom,” Hunt said. During mealtimes, for example, all phones should be removed from the table. And after 10 p.m., “all family phones stay within the kitchen.”

Be “more attentive”

These recent study findings on self-monitoring and limiting time on social media may not work equally well for everyone, especially the less motivated children, says psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz-Schwartz, team leader of the adolescent unit at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut.

But “the important thing finding is that it has clearly paid off to focus on and take a look at to scale back drug use amongst these individuals, even when it has not all the time been successful,” she said.

While we wait for clearer guidelines on what is the “right” amount of social media content and time use, Ortiz-Schwartz says, “Increasing mindfulness and awareness of the risks and advantages can hopefully help individuals be more conscious and thoughtful of their use.”

Strategies for the real world

Max Schwandt, 23, is an outsider, but a lucky one. He works as a salesman at a recreational equipment store in the Los Angeles area and doesn't use social media. Why not? “It takes up an excessive amount of time,” he explained. It's that simple.

But for many other teenagers and young adults, staying away from social media is a real struggle.

Amelia Kennedy, a student at the Catholic University of America, tries to reduce her screen time. One way is to track it on her phone. Lately, she's been getting up early because of her summer job at a restaurant that serves breakfast. “When I actually have to work, I'm still on my phone, but not as long.” And once she's at work, she only has time for quick checks between work tasks. “I'm definitely more productive,” she says of days when she has to work.

Last December, 25-year-old Lauren Young, whose father worked on the Iowa State study, was finishing up her law degree at Georgetown University and decided to stay away from social media for a month. “I can't say I've all the time been in a position to avoid it,” she said. But by severely limiting it, “I've turn into far more present in my day-to-day life and have been in a position to focus higher.”

She could even get through a meal with friends without her phone, leaving it in her purse. That was a marked change from the norm. “I noticed that it was common for people my age to have their phone on the table once I went out to dinner. If you're polite, you hand it over.”

During her social media blackout, Young had deleted TikTok, Instagram and Facebook apps. Then when she graduated, she had to reinstall them to post a picture. But now she's reverted back to minimal social media use.

“I'm studying for the bar exam, so it's sort of needed, nevertheless it all the time makes me happier.” She figures she can always text family and friends when she needs to instead of posting. “For some time, I felt like I used to be missing out on things, but not anymore,” she said.

Others, including Sarah Goldstein, 22, of Chatsworth, Calif., a supermarket worker who is considering returning to college, said she has developed a healthier attitude toward social media as she has gotten older.

“In middle and highschool, I'd see Snapchat and Instagram parties and things that I wasn't invited to.” Although she realized there could be legitimate reasons for not being included, she said it was easy to internalize the feeling of being left out.

Today, she says, she doesn't let it affect her mental health in that way. She enjoys social media — especially TikTok and Instagram — for its benefits. “It passes the time, gives you something to look at, could make you laugh and makes you're feeling like you could have a reference to other people.”