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Huntsville psychotherapist says social media has a big impact on a child's mental health

Local psychotherapist agrees with the Surgeon General's statement saying 13 is too young to be on social media.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Many social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, require users to be 13 or older to create an account but the Surgeon General recently said that age is too young.

A psychotherapist who shares a bit of the impact social media can have on adolescents.

Monretta Vega, with Huntsville Psychotherapy and Counseling Services says, "if we understand the developmental cycle at the age of 13, children are still identifying themselves and it opens the door for comparison and negative self-esteem, negative thoughts and negative emotions because they are starting to subconsciously compare themselves to others on social media."

She says early exposure to social media will greatly impact a child's mental health and give them a false sense of reality.

"It also takes away the appreciation and the motivation for hard work, because a lot of times it seems like others are able to give it so easily and it makes you feel negative about where you are in your life and the progress that you're making."

Vega explains that research shows social media gives people of all ages a "dopamine overload."

"It causes addictive personality traits and characteristics that make you want to be on social media all the time …if you wake up on social media and you go to sleep on social media, you spend most of your day basically scrolling or hitting the like button," Vega said.

She says if you allow your child on a social media platform, to make sure and friend them, so you can monitor their usage.

And as these platforms open the door for a lot of information both negative and positive, "being able to communicate with your adolescent or your teen about what they're viewing is going to be important, because what we view it can impact our sleep, it can impact our mood where there is something positive, whether it's negative, or whether it's just some feelings of comparison," Vega said.

She agrees with the Surgeon General's recent suggestion to have the user age in the later teens.

"Being about 16,17, because we're out of that phase of identifying who we are and we're settling into the personality that we've developed at that time. And it's preparing us also for a bigger, broader world."

And ultimately Vega says social media can have its perks but it's important to stay present, "so many ages, teenagers, adolescence, and as adults, we have to be able to step away just for a little bit."

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