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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

TikTok sets limits for teens as mental health worries grow

Social media is a major cause of the mental illness epidemic in teen girls, argues social psychologist Jon Haidt.

Fifty-seven percent of teenage girls say they experience persistent sadness or hopelessness, according to the CDC's bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Haidt writes. That's up from 36 percent in 2011. Thirty percent say they've seriously considered suicide, up from 19 percent in 2011. "Boys are doing badly too, but their rates of depression and anxiety are not as high, and their increases since 2011 are smaller," he writes.

Covid lockdowns "didn't have much effect on the overall trends, which just kept marching on as they have since around 2012," Haidt writes. "Teens were already socially distanced by 2019."

The CDC report has raised calls for regulating children's access to social media. Utah is about to pass a law requiring parental permission for children under 18 to open social media accounts.

TikTok is setting a 60-minute time limit for users under 18 in response to mental health concerns, reports Joe Hernandez on NPR. Teens 13 to 17 can continue using the app if they enter a passcode, forcing them "make an active decision to extend time," the company says. Those under 13 will need a parent or guardian to enter a code giving them an extra half hour.

Every teen user will be sent a weekly recap of their screen time, and encouraged to set a daily limit.

Limiting screen time can make young people feel better about themselves, reports Allison Aubrey, also on NPR. "U.S. teens spend more than eight hours a day on screens, and there's growing concern over how social media may affect their mental health."

A new study found college students who cut their social media time for a few weeks also reduced their anxiety about their appearance. The study's author, Helen Thai, a doctoral student in psychology at McGill, made a New Year's resolution to take a break from social media.

Social media "fasts," also known as "digital detox" are the in thing. Here's advice -- for adults, not just teenagers -- on developing a healthier relationship with your devices.

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