by Patient Navigation Advisor, Paul Taylor, January 9, 2018



I'm worried that my teenage daughter is spending too much time on Snapchat, Instagram and other social media. Is this stuff bad for her mental health? And should I be thinking about taking away her cellphone?


It may sound counterintuitive, but simply taking away her phone is probably not the best thing to do.

Although social media poses a potential risk to some vulnerable individuals, it also holds the promise of readily available antidotes, says Dr. Carolyn Boulos, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who treats youth at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

She says social media tools can be used to build supportive communities among people with shared interests or similar medical issues. What's more, there's now a host of mobile apps to help treat various conditions including depression, anxiety, poor sleep and much more.

"If they are feeling uncomfortable or anxious, they can pull out their cellphone to look at an app that offers ways to relax – such as breathing exercises or even watching dog videos," says Dr. Boulos, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's medical school.

Dr. Boulos often recommends mental-health apps to her patients such as Headspace, a free meditation app that could help them manage anxiety.

This approach gives patients "more autonomy and another tool to help themselves," says Dr. Boulos.

Dr. Niraj Mistry, a Toronto pediatrician who recently completed an assessment of anxiety-related apps for the Ontario Telemedicine Network, adds that "apps are definitely a way to augment care in between health appointments." (Dr. Mistry's work with the network includes app reviews, which are available online, so physicians can make informed recommendations to their patients).

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