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Colorado psychologist shares social media advice for parents

BRIGHTON, Colo. — Experts across fields are coming together to raise the alarm for our kids.

An analysis by JAMA Pediatrics found that anxiety in kids has almost doubled since 2012, with one in five youth worldwide now struggling with anxiety symptoms. While there are many factors involved with children’s mental health, psychologists increasingly agree that social media is a key one.

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Dr. Amanda N’Zi, a clinical psychologist in the Denver metro who specializes in child and family therapy, said she has watched firsthand as social media has changed the game in many ways — both positive and negative.

“For some kids, social media is a powerful tool for starting to be able to make connections with others, particularly if they have social anxiety or autism spectrum disorder where handling nonverbal feedback while trying to stretch themselves and have a conversation is really challenging,” N’Zi said. “And the flip side of it is it can be a place that is very negative for a lot of kids, particularly children that have anxiety or depression. They really find social media as a place where it’s confirming all the scariest thoughts that they have.”

This negative impact for many kids, N’Zi said, becomes compounded as the algorithms powering social media platforms begin sharing similar content as users interact with it.

‘Wait ‘til [grade] eight’: Colorado psychologist shares social media advice for parents

N’Zi said she has seen, in particular, the profound negative impact social media can have on the body image of young girls. She argues social media has become an “accelerant” of rising anxiety and depression.

“When a child is struggling with feeling isolated — maybe they’re not asked to go to some peer events — they then get on Instagram or on TikTok or on Snapchat, and they see all these photos of their friends out doing things with others,” she explained. “And it just accelerates, sort of, the intensification of these feelings of isolation or loneliness.”


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N’Zi is among a growing number of psychologists and therapists with a new mantra: “Wait ‘til eight.” In other words, establish eighth grade as the appropriate age for kids to enter the world of social media. Any earlier, N’Zi said, is likely too early for kids to navigate its pressures in a healthy way. Waiting later, on the other hand, prevents parents from having the same level of oversight in order to direct their kids to healthy social media practices.

“Parents taking an active role, and kind of teaching and learning about social media themselves, I think is really important,” N’zi said.

As for our lawmakers, N’Zi hopes they will work to establish more legal safeguards to protect children and families.

“I think the biggest thing that they need to know is that when a child is interacting with social media, they don’t have full control,” she said. “Even their parent doesn’t have full control around what they’re going to access or what’s going to be fed to them, because the artificial intelligence is feeding them back information.”

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