Social Media’s Impact on Teen Health

According to recent reports, teenagers in the U.S. spend approximately nine hours per day consuming digital media of all types. If you factor in time for school and sleep, that doesn’t leave many hour in a day. While researchers are still studying the overall long-term effects of this behavior, just looking at the time spent alone is enough to raise concern over how teens could possibly be getting enough daily exercise.

Beyond the video game

While increasingly sedentary lifestyles due to the growing use of video games has been a concern for decades, the amount of time teens are spending using various social media sites, browsing the internet or watching movies or videos is quite alarming. In more recent years, the video game industry has tried to address these concerns by developing interactive games and technology that actually require the player to get up and move.

On the positive side

The seemingly endless volume of content that is instantly available 24-7 does have its advantages. Today’s teenagers are exposed to more worldwide current events, cultures, arts and new ideas than their parents were at their age. This means they’re more likely to be knowledgeable about things like politics, economics and environmental concerns.

When used appropriately, there’s even an upside to the many social media sites that keep cropping up. By joining groups associated with things they like (e.g. playing guitar), teens can talk to others with the same interests that they never would have had a chance to meet in person. They can even find job leads or check out potential colleges without ever having to go there for a visit.

Hidden dangers

In addition to lack of exercise, letting teens have unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet has other hidden dangers. For example, it’s far too easy to engage in or become a victim of cyber bullying. Another concern is the large number predators out there who see teenagers as vulnerable targets.

What parents can do

It would be nearly impossible to try to completely eliminate your child’s media consumption. Instead, parents could encourage children to be more active by taking them on a hike or suggesting they sign up for a club or sports team. Parents could also encourage their kids to read informative content by discussing interesting stories and sharing information on topics that might interest them. Parents should also discuss the effects of cyber bullying and make sure their children are not being bullied themselves.

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