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Shocking Social Media Effects On Teens: Created ‘International Epidemic’ Of Depression, Suicide


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Social media and smartphones have significantly altered childhood, leading to a global surge in depression, anxiety, and suicide among children. This is the alarming conclusion drawn by renowned social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who shared his findings in his first Australian interview since the release of his research on 60 Minutes. Haidt, author of The Anxious Generation, urges immediate action to mitigate the damage caused by the negative effects of social media on mental health.

“We lost the play-based childhood and we got a phone-based childhood,” Haidt said. He attributes the sharp decline in teen mental health to the widespread adoption of smartphones equipped with social media, the internet, and front-facing cameras around the early 2010s. This phenomenon has been observed in the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, northern Europe, and Scandinavian countries. The adverse effects of social media on the mental health of teens are particularly evident in the rise of depression and anxiety.

Haidt’s research highlights the impact of social media on young girls, who are particularly vulnerable to its harmful effects. “Chronic social comparison; all the other girls look better than you, they’re all using filters or carefully edited photos,” he explained. This issue is compounded by algorithms that push harmful content, exacerbating mental health issues, contributing to the social media effects on depression and anxiety.

60 Minutes spoke with three families who have experienced tragic losses due to social media. Robb Evans, from Melbourne, lost his 15-year-old daughter Liv to suicide after she developed anorexia nervosa. Liv turned to social media for advice on extreme dieting, finding harmful content that worsened her condition and provided information on suicide methods. This is a stark example of the detrimental social media effects on mental children.

Katya Jaski, a 17-year-old anorexia survivor, shared her story of how social media algorithms bombarded her with dangerous content related to dieting and fitness, worsening her illness. “Social media is all about using each other as a point of comparison, but for this illness in particular, that point of comparison can be deadly,” Katya said. This highlights the severe social media effects on mental teens, particularly those already struggling with mental health issues.

In Florida, Jennifer Mitchell is suing Meta and Snap after her 16-year-old son Ian died while performing a dangerous online challenge. She claims Ian became addicted to high-adrenaline videos, which led to his tragic death. This case underscores the hazardous social media effects on mental health, especially among impressionable children and teens.

In response to these issues, Florida has introduced new laws to ban social media for children 14 and under, and require parental permission for 15- and 16-year-olds. Companies that fail to verify ages could face fines of up to $75,000 per violation. The law targets platforms using addictive features like algorithms, notifications, and infinite scrolling.

Social media companies, including Meta, Snap, and TikTok, claim they are working to remove harmful content and improve safety measures. However, the effectiveness of these efforts remains under scrutiny. Haidt and affected families are calling for stronger regulations to protect children from the dangers of social media, given the significant social media effects on depression and anxiety, and the broader mental health impacts on both children and teens.

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