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Sharp Health News

Is my child spending too much time online?

Jan. 19, 2022

Boy on his device

The U.S. Surgeon General recently issued an advisory encouraging Americans to better support the mental health of children, adolescents and other young people. The reason: Rates of depression and anxiety continue to rise as the pandemic endures. An estimated 25% of youth are experiencing symptoms of depression and 20% are experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

With in-person meet-ups restricted, many of us have turned to social media for entertainment and connection. Dr. Kelsey Bradshaw, clinical psychologist of the Child and Adolescent Inpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, says the effects of social media on youth during this time can be particularly problematic.

“In many ways, social media can be helpful for young people to safely stay connected with their friends during this time,” he says. “But as they’re growing and figuring out their identity, spending too much time on social media may influence them to try to fit unrealistic ideals or unhealthy identities.”

Dr. Bradshaw adds that the amount of information on social media regarding being healthy and preventing COVID-19 can be helpful. But at times, it is overwhelming. A young person spending excessive time on social media — 3 hours per day or more — can be a warning sign of poor mental health.

“If your child is blocking out opportunities to do other things and prefers to stick to using social media, that could be a cause for concern, especially if you notice a change in their mood and behavior,” he says.

Dr. Bradshaw encourages guardians to talk to their child. “Have early and ongoing conversations about how they’re feeling and the influence of social media,” he says. “Reach out to them if you think they’re going through something.”

Although mental health issues among U.S. youth are widespread and more time is needed to collect data on how precisely the pandemic is affecting youth, mental health symptoms are treatable and often preventable.

“Sometimes, the guardians taking the first step to talk with their child can be very helpful. But if your child needs more help, there are resources such as ones that our hospital provides for more intensive help,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

If you or a child is experiencing a mental health crisis, learn how Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital can help.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Bradshaw about pandemic-related mental health concerns among young people, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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