Psychologist suggests limiting screen time may not curb social media addiction for younger kids

SINGAPORE: Responding to the Government’s recent announcement that it will implement measures to deal with device usage, especially given the negative effects of screen time for youngsters, a medical doctor has suggested that limiting usage time may not entirely alleviate the issue.

In a forum letter published by The Straits Times, Dr Amy Lim emphasized that while reducing screen time could alleviate some negative effects on younger children’s brain functioning, it may not adequately address the root causes of social media addiction in adolescents.

Dr Lim explained that humans are inherently drawn to social information due to evolutionary traits that prioritize social living and dynamics. Social media platforms exploit this by providing an endless stream of social content, which keeps users, especially adolescents, engaged and often addicted.

She pointed out that this overconsumption of distant social information can lead to unhealthy social comparisons and unrealistic standards. In contrast, social information from immediate family and friends has more significant behavioural, cognitive, and emotional impacts.

Advocating for a more nuanced approach to managing social media addiction, Dr Lim suggested that social media settings should prioritize content from users’ closer social circles. By aligning social media use with human psychology, the negative impacts could be mitigated without losing the potential benefits of these platforms.

“Having settings that prioritize social information from family and friends in closer degrees of connection is one way to regulate the intake of social information by our psychology,” she advised.

While acknowledging the good intentions behind screen time limitations, Dr Lim highlighted that these measures might inadvertently prevent users from reaping the positive aspects of social media. She called for interventions that help users filter and prioritize their consumed content, ensuring that social media remains a source of positive community, connection, and relevant information.

Read her letter in full HERE.


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