They warn about the negative impact of social networks on mental health

The doctor Vivek Murthysurgeon general of the United States, has highlighted the harmful effects that social networks can have on mental health, especially in children and adolescents. This warning comes amid growing concern about the psychological impacts of excessive use of digital platforms.

Murthy, recognized for his commitment to public health, has started a campaign to address these problems, equating the need for awareness with the approach used on cigarette packs, which warn about the dangers of tobacco. In this sense, it proposes the implementation of visible labels or warnings that alert about the risks associated with prolonged time on social media.

“We have allowed these platforms to exist, evolve, proliferate, and really take up a lot of space in our children's lives. Our own children tell us about the impact on mental health talking about how it makes them feel worse about their body image, how they makes them feel worse in their lives, as they constantly compare themselves to others,” stated Dr. Murthy, emphasizing the detrimental influence that these platforms can have on the personal perception and quality of life of young people.

Many of them say they can't stop because the platforms are often designed to maximize the time our children spend on them and, despite the fact that many of them are suffering harm, that has to change.”

Vivek Murthy

The abuse of social networks and screens among young people is generating an increase in self-esteem problems, cases of anxiety and other mental health disorders. that can degenerate into self-harm and even suicide, which according to the latest figures from the INE, is the leading cause of death among young people and adolescents between 12 and 29 years old.

This reality has motivated the College of Psychology of Castilla y León to schedule a traveling talk, under the title 'Minors, social networks, self-harm and suicide: What families can do', which started last Friday in Valladolid and which has among its speakers to the specialist in child and adolescent psychology, Alicia Sanzo.

In an interview with EFE, this professional has drawn up a decalogue that includes seven warning signs for families and three tools to prevent and address these situations.

1.- Drastic changes

The changes typical of childhood and, especially, adolescence can be confused with potentially dangerous behaviors, which is why Sanzo points out that It is necessary to be attentive to changes, especially if they are drastic or go “beyond” what would have been normal in the family environment.

“When you see your child from a distance that you cannot see, something is telling you that things are not going well,” says Sanzo, who suggests that parents be attentive and, if they do not have much time, that they be active to take advantage of those moments. common moments to communicate.

2.- The words

Sanzo is surprised when he hears phrases like “I suffer a lot”, “I have thought that my life has no meaning”, “I feel that I am worthless” or “I think my body is horrible” from the mouths of young people full of talent and opportunities, but who come to their consultation “with very low self-esteem.”

Therefore, it is important that they are aware that “whenever they have a problem, no matter what happens, no matter how bad they feel, there will always be someone who will be able to help them,” whether they are their parents, professionals or third parties. .

3.- Social networks

The manifestations of young people and their environment can also be an indicator of a situation in which it is advisable to be alert, especially on social networks, which often indicate signs of self-harming behavior, “Normally kids at this age with suicidal ideas usually leave some clue and we should not downplay it.”

4.- Physical and emotional isolation

Cases of abuse or addiction to networks can be an indicator that there is a risk situation, especially “if you begin to spend more time online than offline”, abandon leisure activities or show a lot of “irritability” if you are punishes without a cell phone or without internet, by not leaving his room or bathroom for long periods.

5.- Inappropriate content

Related to the previous aspect, it is very important that parents be attentive to the content that their children consume on social networks, since they can access directly inappropriate, even dangerous, publications that the algorithm constantly repeats in their feed -its usual content-.

“The algorithm is fed back through quick content and trying to ban these pages is like putting up fences in the countryside,” explains the psychologist, to remember that technology — as has been seen with some uses of Artificial Intelligence — “goes so fast. that the law does not follow it.”

6.- Self-harm

Self-inflicted injuries are a clear sign of risk, which young people often hide with looser clothing, with accessories such as bracelets or scarves, or by avoiding wearing a swimsuit.

Sanzo explains that his patients They often refer to this type of injury as “an emotional release.”so psychologists work in therapy to give them management tools other than harming themselves because “self-harm is never a resource.”

7.- “Intrusive” ideas

Another sign is “intrusive” ideas, obsessive thoughts often related to physical appearance or abilities.but which can also be related to death or violence and which Sanzo often faces in his sessions with tools aimed at “increasing that self-esteem”, to launch processes of “cognitive restructuring” or “to practice relaxation and breathing”.

8.- Digital education

To face the impact of the use of new technologies on young people, Alicia Sanzo refers to digital education for adults as the first tool, to be able to detect the “digital footprint” and link it with the “criminal part”, because before Giving a device to a child, parents “must be informed of the risks of use and abuse.”

“It's as if you gave your child a car despite not having a driving license just because they turned 18,” compares the psychologist.

9.- Parental contract

As a second tool, it presents the so-called “parental contract”: an agreement between the family and the minor on the time, use and control that the parents may have over the contents that, with the passage of time and with the acquisition of more responsibility , it will shrink until it disappears.

10.- Emotional communication

The third tool is communication and emotional education, to adequately manage these crisis situations, for which Sanzo has 'prescribed' online resources and also, for more extreme cases, resort to hospital emergencies or call 024 , the Ministry of Health's suicidal behavior hotline.

(With information from EFE)