New study shows why social media could be impacting mental health

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — New research shows social media may be impacting mental health for young people more than we think.

According to the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, social media may harm teenage girls mental health because it disrupts activities that have a positive impact on mental health, like sleep and exercise.

It also exposes users to cyber-bullying, the study says. This was especially clear among girls.

“I’m always shocked by how much time I actually spend on it,” says Morgan Heflin, a freshman at the University of Arkansas.

“People can gang up on people…just texting you can have a rumor going around about someone or an unflattering picture is taken, and all of a sudden that person is ridiculed,” says Doctor Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist in Fayetteville.

She points to the fear of missing out, or “FOMO.”

Social media is a tangible and concrete way to see what other people are doing without you.

“It can really increase your anxiety about whether you’re being rejected, or whether you’re being left out, Rutherford said.

Suicide rates, she says, are going up in all age groups, “there’s a definite tie with younger people with the amount of time they spend on social media or on their cell phones.”

Whether you’re a parent or a child, limiting your time online can be beneficial for everyone.

“Engaging them yourself in play and go outside. Do things with your child that have nothing to do with social media,” Rutherford said.

Her advice for parents is to show appropriate vulnerability so kids can be comfortable expressing their own emotions, instead of hiding how they are feeling and distracting themselves with social media.

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