(NewsNation) — Social media has changed the way the world works, for better and for worse. But these new technological advances have some fearing that they will have a negative impact on children and adolescents.
A study, carried out by the American Life Investigation Center, found that 56% of Gen Zers reported feeling lonely at least once or twice a month during childhood, compared to about 24% of baby boomers. While there are a lot of factors at play here, some blame social media.
One NewsNation viewer, Sally Saffarally, with a college-aged daughter who frequently uses social media, was curious to see what impact social media had on teenage mental health. Kris Ruby, social media consultant and CEO of Ruby Media Groupweighed.
Q: So many people, especially teenagers, rely on Instagram and TikTok for their approval as to what’s good, and what’s accepted and what’s not. Why are we so afraid to say that social media has contributed to anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, aggression, and sadly, even suicide?
Ruby said when it came to looking at these issues, the tide was turning.
“A recent study which just came out found that taking a week off from social media can actually reduce depression, anxiety, and general feelings of dread,” Ruby said. “So I think the solution here is actually to really fund more studies and medical research and psychological research on social media, like the study we just saw.”
Ruby said she thinks there will be more as big tech regulation continues to come under fire. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have come under fire and even testified before Congress about how they moderate content.
Q: What can we do now to reverse some of these addictive tendencies caused by social media?
“I always say if you’re worried if you’re a parent, you’re worried about your kids on social media, talk to them,” Ruby said. “It’s actually one of the best things you can do.”
Being bullied on social media can be an extremely isolating experience that can lead to further depression and loneliness. That’s why Ruby said it’s important for parents to let kids know they have options, including “social media minimalism.” This could mean taking screen time breaks, putting your account in private mode, limiting screen time, or installing parental controls in apps like TikTok.
Q: How can we get the right people to listen to these concerns and address this disease?
With all the news surrounding social media, Ruby said she thinks the right people are listening to the current regulatory concerns of big tech companies.
“What’s really fascinating, I would say, is that (the European Union) is so much ahead of the United States in terms of data privacy,” Ruby said.
Specifically, Ruby cited the Digital Services Act and the General Data Protection Regulation Act in Europe as two things she would like to see the United States adopt. The General Data Protection Regulation, according to its websiteimposes stiff fines on anyone who violates its privacy and security standards, while the Digital Services Act, by CNBC, prevents platforms from targeting people with algorithms using data based on their gender, race or religion. It would also prevent companies from targeting children with ads.
“I think if you really want to fix these issues, it starts with stronger privacy laws,” Ruby said.