Legacy Health Endowment, a non-profit based out of Turlock aimed at improving the health and wellness of residents in Stanislaus and Merced counties through education and increasing access to healthcare services, recently released a Parental Guide to Understanding Social Media and the Gaming Guide for Parents. Each of the guides goes over national statistics of social media and video usage, their effects and safety tips for parents.
“More information is coming out arguing that there is a correlation between the increased use of social media and poor behavioral health,” said Jeffrey Lewis, President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment. “Like many activities in which children and teens engage, video gaming [also] poses potential dangers. Many games feature social and interactive elements such as chat or online competitions; others can be expanded or altered by downloading player-created content on the Internet. In addition, gaming can often affect young people’s mental health, lowering self-esteem and self-efficacy and increasing anxiety, aggression, and even clinical symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.
“It has become clear that educating parents and guardians would be helpful and impactful.”
The guides state that 96% of all teens and young adults in the United States own a smartphone. Since smartphones like the iPhone were introduced in 2007, teen depression increased 59%. Furthermore, 37% of children aged 13 to 17 have been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying is just one of the factors contributing to staggering mental health and suicide statistics across the nation. Every year, one in six children ages 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder every year. Additionally, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the United States among those ages 10 to 14. 90% of those who die by suicide have shown signs of mental health disorder.
Aside from cyberbullying, other threats that have become prevalent on social media platforms include scams and adult material.
In 2022, the most downloaded social media platforms in order were TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube. Ironically, TikTok was found to have the least safety settings of any platform on the list. After TikTok, the platforms with the least amount of safety settings in order are Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
As issues like mental health have trended upwards in correlation with phones and social media, the heavy usage of video games has brought up similar concerns.
According to the LHE guide, up to 10% of the entire United States population have experienced video game addiction. Of the 71% of all children who play video games in the country, 8.5% suffer from gaming disorders, which is defined as a driving need to play. Symptoms of gaming disorders include anxiety, obsession, anger, stress and a lack of real-life relationships.
Whether it’s video game play or social media usage, LHE encourages parents to explore built-in parental controls on devices like phones or consoles, which most have. There are mobile applications like Bark, Qustodio, Intego, Family Time, Aura, Norton and Kasperky that parents can download and subscribe to in order to limit screen time and block sites and platforms. Companies like Windows, Microsoft, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo have introduced parental tools on their respective websites.
One of the main pieces of advice offered by Legacy Health Endowment is for parents to actively communicate and be engaged with their children. They encourage parents to learn what apps are on their kids’ phones, what video games they play and what platforms they play on, their experiences when using apps or playing games, who they are interacting with and what their conversations generally consist of.
A full list of statistics, sources, parental tools and recommendations can be found within both guides, which can be accessed at www.legacyhealthendowment.org.