Kids are spending too much time on cell phones, computers or video games. But how much is too much? Leslie Addison, LPC, and Matthew Tyra, LPCI, from Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services, say the topic comes up daily. “Discussions cover how much time the child is spending on social media, electronics, cell phones and violent video games,” says Addison. “When the kids leave here, we stress structure and suggest parents put limitations on their child’s access to electronics.”
Social Media and Depression
Addison says they have seen an influx of patients who are victims of cyberbullying, which is a common trigger for depression and suicidal thoughts. “We have sessions where kids are given the skills and tools to use if they encounter bullying,” says Tyra. Both recommend that parents sit down with their kids so they can monitor things. Another concern is the link between depression and social media, which can be a double-edged sword. “A person who is depressed already has a lower self esteem. But the flip side is that social media can lead to depression because of what the person is seeing, and they compare themselves to everyone else,” says Tyra. He also notes that people get caught up in what they are seeing, and often it isn’t even reality.
Time for Digital Detox
Addison says when kids are hospitalized because they threaten suicide if their cell phone or video games are taken away, that’s when they have a talk with the family strongly suggesting a “digital detox.” “Parents need to enforce that cell phones and video games are a privilege, not a right, and they need to earn them through trustworthy behavior. Like anything else, these devices can be misused,” says Addison. She also adds that parents can’t shield their kids from everything, but they do need open lines of communication with each other. “You can’t believe everything you see or read,” she says.