Springfield mental health advocates explain impacts of social media on the brain, especially in young girls

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – The Wall Street Journal revealed Facebook researchers have repeatedly found Instagram to be toxic for teen girls.

The newspaper reported Tuesday researchers at Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, have been conducting studies for three years into how the app affects its millions of young users.

The research found Instagram can damage mental health and body image, especially among teen girls.

Provisionally licensed professional counselor, Andrew Dilisio, says when a picture gets a “like” on social media, your brain gets increased amounts of dopamine. That dopamine gives your brain a positive response. However, it also reinforces that behavior.

”What is not helpful is that most of those pictures is not based on reality because of the photo editors, because of models and who knows what celebrities posting pictures that aren’t necessarily their real life,” Dilisio says. “You have these young teens wanting to get that same good feeling and yet they are competing against people who are always upping the ante.”

Dilisio says that leads to a lot of comparison among people using the app, which can lead to mental health issues and body dysmorphia.

One college student, Marissa Okic, admits she felt insecure using social media for those reasons.

“It would just spiral into a really big depressive episode and then I constantly just compare myself to everyone that I see, even on social media and in person,” Okic says. “With certain accounts I tend to unfollow and block and just not look at them.”

Burrell’s assistant director of school based services, Cristin Martinez, says you start developing your identity in those adolescent years. Because of that, youth rely on their peers to decide how much they are valued.

“Kids that bully on social media or just in general are one-and-a-half times more likely to think about suicide and the one that’s being bullied is two times more likely than their peers to be thinking about suicide,” Martinez says.

Martinez says teens spend over nine hours a day on their phones and social media. However, Martinez says studies show the recommendation is only two hours per day.

Martinez says parents should set healthy boundaries and limit that screen time.

“Dinner is gonna be a great time to just lets put all of our devices away and have family time,” Martinez says. “At night let’s have a basket we put all the phones in and have them charge overnight so we are not tempted to look at them.”

Martinez says as role models, parents should limit their screen time as well. Martinez says it’s also important for parents to have honest, and open conversations with their kids about body image, and social media.

Anyone experiencing a behavioral health crisis is urged to call Burrell’s Crisis Line at 1-800-494-7355.

For non-crisis situations, if you’re in need of services, call 417-761-5000.

More information on Burrell’s eating disorder services can be found here.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

Copyright 2021 KY3. All rights reserved.

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