One of America's top pediatricians says she has seen a "clear link" between depression and social media use among teenage girls and encourages parents to re-think their smartphone strategy.
Meg Meeker is a leading pediatrician and the author of such books as Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Boys Should Be Boys, Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture, and You've Got This: Unlocking the Hero Dad Within. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters inspired a movie of the same name currently streaming on Great American Family and Pure Flix. Meeker also hosts a podcast, Parenting Great Kids.
"There's a clear link between depression and social media use," Meeker told Christian Headlines. "And as a matter of fact, the more social media use a girl engages in, the higher her risk for depression. ... I've seen it firsthand in my practice."
Meeker, who has worked more than 30 years in the pediatric field, said one of her patients was a 15-year-old girl who had attempted suicide and acknowledged part of her problem was social media. The girl said she "felt awful about herself" whenever she got off her phone, Meeker said.
"We have such clear, overwhelming evidence that it hurts girls," Meeker said. "The surgeon general said that – that parents at least have to help their kids dial down on their use."
Several companies, Meeker noted, offer social media-free smartphones that allow children and teens to stay in touch with family and friends. Two of the more popular companies are Gabb and Bark. Both have strong parental controls. Gabb also offers a social media-free smartwatch.
Too often, Meeker said, parents believe their daughters must have smartphones to "keep up" with friends.
"That's not true. What a daughter needs is a better relationship with her mom and her dad, because that's what sustains her and grows her and makes her a strong woman and a healthy woman as she gets older," Meeker said. "This is a real concern of mine because we have a mental health crisis among our teenagers. And a huge part of the answer is parents, particularly dads, reconnecting and helping girls disconnect from what is really harming them and a lot of that is social media."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Martin DM
Video courtesy: ©Great American Family
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.