Social networks
Two-thirds of parents are worried about children's increased time spent on mobile devices, including overall screen time and overuse of social media. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

As another blistering summer draws to a close and the time approaches for all children to return to school, a couple of specific concerns seem to be on the minds of a large number of parents.

These parental concerns categorically relate to the prolonged amount of time that their children spend on the Internet, and browsing through social media platforms, along with the negative impact that it can have on their mental health.

According to an Ofcom report conducted earlier this year, two in three children aged between three and 17 used social media, whilst a third of the children used apps and sites to post their videos.

Despite the fact that I'm not a parent myself, I can't help but be deeply concerned about the idea of a three-year-old child using social media, regardless of the reason.

So it's no wonder that, according to a Mott Hospital National Poll on Children's Health conducted by the University of Michigan, that two of the most prevalent issues topping the list of parents' concerns were the roles that social media and the Internet had on their children's lives.

Overall, emotional health and technology usage completely dominated this year's list of top 10 parental concerns about health-related issues for children in the United States.

"Parents still view problems directly impacting physical health, including unhealthy eating and obesity, as important children's health issues.

"But these have been overtaken by concerns about mental health, social media and screen time."

Susan Woolford, M.D., M.P.H, Mott Poll co-director and paediatrician.

Based on data from the poll, two-thirds of parents are worried about children's increased time spent on mobile devices, including overall screen time and overuse of social media.

Previous reports suggest that screen time gradually became a concern for parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this concern, Dr Woolford encourages parents to regularly monitor their children's use of technology and consider limiting their screen time.

The poll findings were based on over 2,000 responses collected in February this year, all of which demonstrate a serious and growing parental concern for children's mental health.

Distressing topics such as depression, anxiety, suicide, stress, bullying and other mental-health-related subjects are unanimously viewed by parents as big problems that pose a potential danger of escalation.

In addition to these topics, parents' concerns even extended towards a worrying lack of mental health services available to children.

"The mismatch between the growing number of youth with mental health concerns and the limited access to mental health services has serious implications for children's well-being," Woolford said.

Some parents even expressed a high level of concern about school violence, particularly when regarding US school shootings, fights and the media coverage surrounding these events.

It was found that parents in low-income households were more likely to view children's health issues as a major concern, including depression, suicide, school violence, drugs, drinking, unsafe neighbourhoods, child abuse, pollution and many more factors.

Meanwhile, parents in middle to high-income homes are more likely to rate overuse of mobile devices and social media as significant problems.

"Today's school-aged children have experienced dramatic shifts in classroom environments, technology norms and increased mental health challenges," Woolford stated.

He added: "Parents should partner with schools, mentors and their child's health care providers to address both ongoing and emerging health concerns."