Wisconsin lawmakers want to restrict access to social media for anyone under 18, but Dr. Jean Twenge thinks it’s also up to parents to step in.
Twenge is the author of iGen and Generation Me, in which she explores how smarphone use and mental health issues are related. Rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide have increased among children and teenagers since 2012, a timeframe that coincides with rising smartphone and social media use. Twenge doesn’t see that as a coincidence.
“They are spending less time hanging out with each other in person,” Twenge told WTMJ’s Steve Scaffidi. “The way that teens spend time outside of school has fundamentally changed.”
Twenge said age 16 would be a good place for restrictions to go up to, and recommends that parents wait until then to get kids their first smartphone. She adds that everyone, not just teens should limit screen time before bed and keep their phone out of the bedroom at night.
But limiting, not eliminating social media is the factor most in need of change.
“Have that discussion with your kids,” said Twenge. “That can include older teens as well. Ask them how they feel when they spend two hours on Instagram. You’re probably getting drawn back in by those algorithms, so let’s talk about that and ways to limit it.”
The current age restriction of 13 to use most social media apps is not enforced. Some Wisconsin lawmakers want to change that, and make parental permissions a requirement for teens to download them.
Twenge emphasized that while some depression-causing factors like genetics are out of our control, limiting exposure to social media is one thing parents can influence.