By now, you may have heard of the popular Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma.” Since it released in early September, the documentary has remained on the streaming platform’s “Top 10” list.
“The Social Dilemma” addresses something I talk about often with patients, parents, and readers these days: the effect social media is having on us and our kids.
I highly recommend watching it. The filmmaker’s interview top executives who used to work at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s an incredibly honest look at what social media is doing to us mentally, physically, and emotionally.
The documentary openly addresses how social media is affecting an entire generation of teens—the first generation to not know life before social media.
Social psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt cites evidence that the mental health of teens has greatly declined since the birth of social media. This goes for teen girls especially. Since 2010, there has been a 151% increase in depression and anxiety among girls aged 10-14. That year directly coincides with the rise of social media.
The documentary follows a fictional teenage girl as she navigates the world of social media. In one all-too-familiar scene, the girl posts a selfie of herself and is immediately bullied in the comments for her “big ears.”
The scene might be fictional, but the story is true of so many of our teenage kids. It’s so important that we don’t take these apps lightly. As they become more and more the center of kids’ social lives, we will have to be more and more diligent to make sure our kids’ mental health is staying intact.
At the end of “The Social Dilemma,” Dr. Haidt makes three excellent suggestions for how to reduce and monitor your child’s time on social media. As a pediatrician who’s seen countless teen patients with anxiety and depression, I confidently stand behind these suggestions.
1. No social media until high school.
And ideally, no social media until age 16. Dr. Haidt makes the point that middle school is hard enough. Why add social media into the mix? I completely agree.
I know this feels like an impossible feat for some of you. But weigh your options. You can either have a child who is angry with you for not letting him use social media as a preteen, or you can have a teenager who suffers from severe anxiety due to comparison, bullying, and a number of other threats these apps pose to our kids.