Mental health and social media, a Utah child psychologist weighs in

May 24, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:09 am

The attention given to social media by researchers and lawmakers is warranted said an expert from t...

The attention given to social media by researchers and lawmakers is warranted said an expert from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, especially in the realm of children's mental health (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — The national conversation about child safety on social media has reached the U.S. Surgeon General, who this week asked social media companies to act quickly to protect the mental health of American children. 

The question of mental health safety joins questions of physical safety posed by law enforcement and national security posed by politicians.

But with the ever-changing landscape of evolving technology, and everything being so relatively new, how do we find best practices?

No fluke, the attention is warranted

All the attention warranted  Dr. Kristin Francis from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute told KSL@Night.

“We want to take this issue seriously,” Francis told KSL@Night hosts Leah Murray and Derek Brown.

The surgeon general just came out with some advisories on … let’s not wait for the science to catch up. And let’s instead start monitoring usage. And let’s have really open conversations with our kids. Because we don’t really know if it’s good or bad … the evidence is not clear.

What is the evidence? Some comes from what the journal National Affairs called “leaked Instagram research,” first published in the Wall Street Journal in 2021.

Related: Social media to blame for decline of mental health of youth, Gov Cox says

The researchers reportedly talked to teens with recent mental or emotional health issues. Around 40% of the kids said their feelings of inadequacy were initiated by Instagram.

These feelings are linked to the constant comparison driven by social media, the report said.

Dialogue and parameters

Dr. Francis said she liked what the surgeon general had to say about creating a family media plan.

“That means you’re sitting down with your kids, and you’re inviting them in,” she said.

Asking their input … ‘what do you think is a reasonable amount of time to be on a screen,’ and ‘what sites do you think are good? Why are they good?'”

Modeling the behavior you want to see in your children is an important aspect of this conversation said Dr. Francis.

Show them, Francis said, the benefits of positive social interactions and how to best interact with people. Show them how to reach out to and support a person in need.



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Mental health and social media, a Utah child psychologist weighs in