Children’s mental health and safety in the spotlight as social media leaders take on Congress


William Brangham:

As companies tried to separate from each other, lawmakers on both sides agreed that more measures were needed to keep children safe online.

To learn more about how these platforms affect children’s mental health, we turn to Jean Twenge. She is a professor of psychology and author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood”.

Jean Twenge, delighted to meet you on the “NewsHour”.

So, as we heard today, there have been many concerns voiced on Capitol Hill about the potential of these platforms to harm young people.

What do we know about current research on whether or not these things cause harm?

Jean Twenge, Author, “iGen”: Yes, so in general, the more time a child or teenager spends in front of a screen, the more likely he is to be depressed, anxious, to hurt himself.

There are gradations to it. Watching videos is not as strongly linked to depression as, say, being on social media. But especially when kids and teens spend a lot of time online, it leaves less time for sleeping, it leaves less time for interacting with people face to face, leaves less time for running outside and exercising. .

And so, maybe, as a result, what we’ve seen is a huge increase in teenage depression just as these platforms have become very popular.

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