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Is Social Media Causing Childhood Depression? (bbc.com) 131

General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. "One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E," reports BBC. Dr. Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. "He reported a significant improvement in his wellbeing and, after six months, I had a letter from his mother saying he was happier at school and integrated into the local community," says Dr. Chatterjee. That and similar cases have led him to question the role social media plays in the lives of young people. From the report: "Social media is having a negative impact on mental health," he said. "I do think it is a big problem and that we need some rules. How do we educate society to use technology so it helps us rather than harms us?" A 2017 study by The Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people aged 11-25 to track their moods while using the five most popular social media sites. It suggested Snapchat and Instagram were the most likely to inspire feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. YouTube had the most positive influence. Seven in 10 said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14-24-year-olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. Two-thirds said Facebook made cyber-bullying worse.

Consultant psychiatrist Louise Theodosiou says one of the clearest indications children are spending too long on their phones is their behavior during a session with a psychiatrist. "Two or three years ago, it was very unusual for a child to answer their phone or text during an appointment. But now it is common," said the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital doctor. She has seen a rise in cases where social media is a contributing factor in teenage depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These problems are often complex and wide-ranging -- from excessive use of gaming or social media sites to feelings of inadequacy brought on by a constant bombardment of social media images of other people's lives, to cyber-bullying.

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Is Social Media Causing Childhood Depression?

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  • What's going on...? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2018 @03:31AM (#56103117)

    A few generations ago, 16 year olds lied to Army recruiters to be able to parachute into Nazi-occupied Western Europe during WWII.

    Could you image all these youtube/emo/facebook kids doing that shit today?

    • A few generations ago, 16 year olds lied to Army recruiters to be able to parachute into Nazi-occupied Western Europe during WWII.

      Could you image all these youtube/emo/facebook kids doing that shit today?

      Today we have better records and it is much harder to lie to recruiters. But right now there are 18 and 19 year old "kids" among the 11 thousand American soldiers in Afghanistan.

      • Why do you romanticize child slavery? Btw, I know someone who 10 years ago faked her id to get into a tech job (she was 17 and lied she is 20)

        • by bjwest ( 14070 )
          Dude, did you reply to the wrong comment? Because not one word you spewed out up there has any reference to the parent.
        • "Child slavery" that made it possible for your country to come into existence...

        • I'm old enough to remember the draft. Some people do consider conscription to be a form of slavery. I'm also old enough to have known people who were desperate, or whose families were desperate enough, to lie to get into military service with food, clothing, and housing as part of the agreement. And there have been people throughout history who willingly entered indentured servitude for personal goals.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashikiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday February 11, 2018 @11:51AM (#56104057) Homepage

          The first job I had was at 9 picking rocks out of a farmers field before planting, that was in the 1980's. In the 90's it was expected that most kids by the age of 14 already had a PT job of some kind, hell at 12 I was already on the 2nd year of my mechanics apprenticeship. Fake ID for a job at 17...no wonder people think kids are coddled.

      • Let me try to answer the question "Is social media causing childhood depression?"

        Firstly I do not have empirical data, so I have to use intuition, common sense, etc.

        My opinion is that social media and indeed the whole power of the internet "causes" or leads to people in general, not just kids, being smarter, more knowledgeable, more ambitious, more inspired, etc. In this line of thought, people have greater desires. The desires are broader, more conflicted, more sophisticated, and so on. Naturally, people a

        • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Sunday February 11, 2018 @07:50AM (#56103547) Journal

          You seem to be conflating social media with the whole of the internet. And your post is mostly baseless drivel with any logical reasoning, you need some more of that common sense that you speak of.

          The downsides of social media are outweighing the few upsides. The downsides are:
          Full of memes and false information, a very bad place to learn.
          Confirmation bias.
          Attention span destroying
          Anti-social
          Propaganda
          Advertising aka brainwashing
          Herd mentality
          Bullying
          Gambling (loot crates) .....Plenty more

          Whilst I'm not saying some of your points are outright wrong, you are vastly overstating the level of affect.

          • These are all problems inherent in human society as a whole. Social media just amplifies these problems, rather than creating them.

            Let's try using social media to push human interaction in more desirable directions, supposing that we can even agree on what those directions should be.

            • These are all problems inherent in human society as a whole. Social media just amplifies these problems, rather than creating them.

              Let's try using social media to push human interaction in more desirable directions, supposing that we can even agree on what those directions should be.

              We can't even agree that saying "Black lives matter" or "it's OK to be white" is acceptable, so I'm not optimistic about us finding a common direction. When America abandoned the melting pot analogy and started emphasizing tribes the seeds of strife were sown. We're just reaping the rather expected results now.

      • Back in 1928, my father did this to escape a crappy home life and was shipped to the Middle East, which was a military problem area even then. In the country known then as Mandatory Palestine, his job was to maintain a nervous truce between Arabs and Jews. He took it as an opportunity to learn engineering, and in 1940 was sent to the war front in Libya. He ended the war running a motor pool in northern Italy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Today we have better records and it is much harder to lie to recruiters. But right now there are 18 and 19 year old "kids" among the 11 thousand American soldiers in Afghanistan.

        We had good records back then too, on top of that we used dental exams to determine if the person was lying. A friend of mine's uncle enlisted at 13, he lied and wheeled his way through it all. How did it slip by? He looked like he was 16, even passed the dental exam, he managed to successfully forge his birth certificate. By the time they figured out he was under age he was already legal age and let him stay in the service. The only places where records get spotty in that era is where they were destroy

    • A few generations ago, 16 year olds lied to Army recruiters to be able to parachute into Nazi-occupied Western Europe during WWII.

      Today 16 year olds parachute into Nazi-occupied Western Europe in online games.

      There is no need for the real thing.

      And you could try to convince the Germans to go all Nazi again and occupy Western Europe with polluting diesel tanks, but they couldn't be bothered with it because they can do that online.

      Hey, but our 16 year olds today will put in an extensive effort to lie their ways into online games that are only allow for folks older than 18.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Could you image all these youtube/emo/facebook kids doing that shit today?

      Some of them, yes, absolutely. In fact you do know that we have an all volunteer military, right?

      Remember, generations are populations. Boiling them down to a stereotype throws out most of the actual information about them.

    • wasn't genreally because of how tough and patriotic they were but because they had no options and were dirt poor, right? Imagine your kid 8 or 10 on a farm, that the farm is failing because of a few bad seasons and your parents can't afford to feed your brothers and sisters when this nice man from the army says he'll take you away and give you grub.

      My bro skipped the army and opted for college (I'm got hip problems (real ones, as in I'll need a hip replacement someday), so it was never an option) but I s
      • wasn't genreally because of how tough and patriotic they were but because they had no options and were dirt poor, right?

        Wrong. Military pay back then was shit even by the standards of the time, and nobody in their right mind would sign up to go fight in trenches and storm beaches just to make a few bucks. With the war in full swing there were plenty of jobs to be had back home which didn't come with a high probability of a quick and messy death.

        Imagine your kid 8 or 10 on a farm, that the farm is failing because of a few bad seasons and your parents can't afford to feed your brothers and sisters when this nice man from the army says he'll take you away and give you grub.

        I've spoken to several vets who lied about their age in order to join; none of them were actively recruited so your whole scenario there is just a strawman.

        If you look at our volunteer army, it's almost entirely the poor

        This is just a lie. All

    • Well, they were being lied to by (non-social, classic) media then: "be a hero, go shoot Nazi, enroll". Heh?
    • A few generations ago, 16 year olds lied to Army recruiters to be able to parachute into Nazi-occupied Western Europe during WWII.

      And today we have a president who got five deferments and whose father paid off a NY draft board to reclassify his son as 4-F after he had been classified 1-A.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2018 @03:32AM (#56103123)

    You'd be hard-pressed to think of technologies available to a young child that would "help."

    Keep your kids off of social media.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Tried that. Confiscated my daughter's phone for having an SJW snowflake meltdown for calling a trans person I've never met "her" instead of "him" when I referred to the time before they took hormones. Her mom found a completely untrained and unlicensed therapist to decide I'm "abusive" and a whole Facebook community of "oh, my god, people who punish children are abusive!!!! the lack of buy-in to this week's transgender etiquette proves it! get away, get away!!!"

      You have to control it for the whole family

  • by Anonymous Coward

    People are shitty, especially people during childhood.

    It just used to take you longer to figure out, because they didn't used to air their dirty laundry on their fucking social media profile.

    The difference today is there are a lot more ways to catch people in their social lies than waiting to hear it from a friend of a friend who tells it to you confidentially.

    If may in part be that more cliques are starting earlier now that people can social network more outside of school, rather than fewer of them until k

  • by Anonymous Coward

    get rid of it.

  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Sunday February 11, 2018 @05:21AM (#56103313)

    When I was growing up, kids were just as shitty as they are now. Bullies were just as prevalent. Of course, kids who got bullied only had to deal with it while at school.
    With social media, these asshole kids are able to stock their targets whenever they want. So nowadays the kids who get bullied don't get an escape from the mental bullying.
    Of course I know a lot of people no this site do not believe that mental suffering is a real thing and people should just shut up and stop being snowflakes. Naturally, the people who think this way grew up in their middle class white suburbs without a single obstacle in their live.
    While I was fortunate enough that I never had to deal with that stuff as a kid, I know a number of people who did. 25 years on, these people are... different than other people today.
    I could easily see how social media could drive a person to depression. Constant pressure, constant negative imagery and the kid feels there is not escape. Remember... Kids can be super assholes.

    • I got off that treadmill between 6th and 7th grades, before finding myself without friends and finally leaving high school early (ducked out just before Columbine sent everything to shit.)

      I had a number of friends who tried to climb the social ladder, something I had been trying to do when I was younger because it was supposed to be important to being successful later in life (something I actually believe is true, but I've become happy I didn't do it, since I avoided a lot of really superficially nice but r

    • When I was growing up, kids were just as shitty as they are now. Bullies were just as prevalent. Of course, kids who got bullied only had to deal with it while at school.
      With social media, these asshole kids are able to stock their targets whenever they want. So nowadays the kids who get bullied don't get an escape from the mental bullying. ...
      I could easily see how social media could drive a person to depression. Constant pressure, constant negative imagery and the kid feels there is not escape. Remember... Kids can be super assholes.

      It seems to me that their bad behavior online could be used to improve society by making it easier to identify and isolate bullies. I'm not saying that they should just be banned because that just drives them to either bypass the ban or take it out on someone else via another service. Instead, I'm suggesting that their online behavior should have real consequences that would lead to correcting their antisocial behavior.

      Naturally, identifying antisocial behavior can't be as simple as a single offensive pos

    • or is it giving these bullied kids an outlet so that you're actually noticing them? You're right, these kids always existed. But when I was a kid they were so trampled down nobody noticed. Hell, I was one of the only slightly bullied kids (I was big but timid, so sometimes a target) but I knew kids who were bullied by their teachers, and not just the gym teachers.

      To be honest what changed was Columbine. Bullied kids suddenly had to be paid attention to. Even the gym teachers stopped the bullying since y
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

    It's a fact. Google it up.

  • it also causes them to drink, do drugs, have sex, and do other potentially irresponsible things less frequently than previous generations of kids.

    Basically it is replacing other forms of abuse and addiction.

    Is this a net benefit? Who knows?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      it also causes them to drink, do drugs, have sex, and do other potentially irresponsible things less frequently than previous generations of kids.

      Basically it is replacing other forms of abuse and addiction.

      Is this a net benefit? Who knows?

      How can things online be irresponsible? Previous generations... climbing trees without safety net, playing with fire, chainsaws, going by bike in public traffic alone, diving in the swimming pool below the cover that prevents evaporation, ... been there, done that, and was allowed to. And parents today worry that their offspring can see/do something online. Sissies.

    • I have no idea where you got that idea but nothing about social media prevents drug use including Alcohol.
  • If it's bad now, just wait until Facebook add their 'Dislike button'.
  • I suspect it can also be the opposite, depression causes people to spend more time in social networks.

    • I suspect it can also be the opposite, depression causes people to spend more time in social networks.

      It's just progress. There is a stigma attached to seeking mental health care, but these kids don't care about that. We're just hearing about more depressed kids. They've always been around. One of my best friends as a kid killed himself via OD when he was sixteen. One of my exes told me she tried the same thing at about the same age, got a free hospital visit and everything. Maybe we've just been treating kids like shit and ignoring them all along.

  • If someone was depressed in a pre-internet era, the word would likely not get very far outside of the city borders. Today, it's possible someones depression will become known throughout the world thanks to interconnectedness. I wouldn't be surprised if the level of depression is really just the same after all this time, yet the only difference is the technology compared to, say, 50 years ago. I would worry that technology is just a convenient scapegoat.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And I don't even use it.

  • I don't think social media is the sole causation of depression, rather it can be a contributing factor. Facebook is a case study in the law of unintended consequences. As much as I dislike Mark Zuckerberg and want to give him absolutely no credit for anything, I don't think he foresaw that Facebook would be a breeding ground for malcontent. He never thought Facebook would become a place for bullying and encouraging people to compare their lives or relative lack of success to others. I am a goodly number of
  • by X!0mbarg ( 470366 ) on Sunday February 11, 2018 @10:00AM (#56103755)

    If you look at the "whole picture", you can see the pattern from infancy.
    Child cries, gets attention (varied).
    Boredom = video put on.
    Teens plug into social media:
      - instant "friends" that aren't really friends
      - feedback on social activities
      - suggestions for other interactions that are minimally inclusive on a physical level
      - advertising bombardment
      - tailored interest grouping that "fits" whatever whim they have (good or bad): If the comments stream doesn't completely match what they Want to hear, they filter the comments (mentally) to only see what brings them the attention they were seeking, which results in deepening whatever they were feeling in the first place.

    It's all about being little attention junkies: Give them what they want and they're happy. The problem is, it's only a temporary hit, and they want more.
    Because it wears off so fast, the cycle is rather steep and intense, with a serious downward spiral.

    As many of us have seen, it's not the positive expressions that get the most attention, but the negative ones. After all, the "train-wreck watchers" want to see just how far the mess will spin out, and will even be there on the sidelines with more wrenches and grease to add to the situation. Good feelings and Warm Fuzzies are nice and all, but don't hold the collective interest like a good old fashioned emotional spinout that leads to a suicide attempt.

    If teens want the negative attention, Heaven knows the internet has negative reinforcement in Spades available 24/7/365.

    I just wish the same could truthfully be said for Positive attention.

    • It's like Dr. Jordan Peterson says: [youtube.com]

      "...Aim at something that's worth aiming at. And how do you determine what's worth aiming at?

      Well you think: Okay, here I have my miserable, wretched life. Under what conditions would it justify itself, as far as I'm concerned, personally?

      So you think. What sort of future would I have to have so that I could say 'This is worth it.'?

      And that's what you aim for.

      And technically that works in part because we know most of the systems that mediate positive emotion in hu

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Sunday February 11, 2018 @10:12AM (#56103767)

    We already know it's causing depression in pretty much every other group. It would be more newsworthy if it didn't cause depression in children.

  • Social Networks are only a tool. A tool that enables people to be in constant contact and share their inner thoughts and interests with everyone. It removes some filters people have when talking face to face with someone else, which is a powerful thing both for good and bad.
    The problem here is that Internet culture, specially western Internet culture is just this bad.
    What happened with Internet tools such as social media is that the inherent culture that has been growing up for decades now is unleashed at p

  • by bmo ( 77928 )

    I read the title and the answer is "no."

    There are so many other causes of childhood depression (wrong school system, etc.) and the fact that childhood depression existed long before desktop computers of any kind existed that no, social media, as such, is such a small part. Indeed, social media is sometimes the only connection left a depressed person has with the world at large (and if this is you, seek help *right now*^`1) that removing access to it (because parents are going to only read the title) would

  • Imagine if you could, from early childhood on, hear everyone's thoughts, unfiltered, and you can't turn it off. Your life would be a living hell and you'd probably want to eventually kill yourself. That's what so-called 'social media' does to us: you get people's unfiltered thoughts, and it's very easy to be critical or outright cruel when you don't have to face someone when you're saying it.

    So-called 'social media' should not be allowed for kids, at all, period. Make them interact in person, get properl
  • Makes it worse, yes.

    You either have a chemical imbalance or you don't - social media doesn't cause the imbalance. Social media will certainly make a huge contribution to what a person feels as a result of the imbalance.

    Take away the social media, the "bad feels" will certainly diminish, but there will still be something there, it's just the way a lot of us are wired.

  • Anyone have kids during the Pogues phenomenon? It turned into gambling. Schools and parents had to shut it down.

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