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Three Ways to Put Your Mental Health First During Mental Health Awareness Month

Published: May 6, 2024

Since social media was first introduced in the late 1990s, people have been asking questions about how it could impact us, for better or for worse. Today, with the popularity of smartphones and 24/7 access to the internet, the questions are even more complex.

Over the years, scientists have been able to study social media’s influence on the brain. While individual studies vary, one thing remains clear: It does affect mental health, especially if the brain is still developing.

Organizations are starting to speak out about this issue. The Surgeon General has officially issued an advisory on social media. States are filing lawsuits against social media companies for how their platforms have furthered kids’ mental health decline (see how Ohio is dealing with this issue in Governor DeWine’s State of the State address). And new evidence from the Yale School of Medicine has confirmed just how harmful the effects of social media can be.

With this in mind, Pause Before You Play is providing practical steps to decrease your social media usage and improve your mental health in May. Not only is May Mental Health Awareness Month, but the week of May 6 is also Screen-Free Week

Here are three ways you can decrease time on social media and screens: 

  • Understand the science. Social media’s impact on the brain is still being understood. However, many studies have proven that it activates the brain’s reward center, limits attention capacity, memory, and information processing, hinders social and emotional responses, and more. By learning about what your brain is doing every time you check social media, you can take steps to replace it with healthier alternatives. 
  • Start a digital detox. If you find yourself craving the feel-good sensations you get every time you refresh your feed, that’s by design — an estimated $23 billion is spent to make games, apps, and devices more addicting. Give yourself permission to unplug from phones, tablets, and social media for a designated amount of time so you no longer have to rely on them. You can start your detox today at
  • Set up boundaries. Once you do a digital detox, setting long-term boundaries can help you keep social media in its place. You can download apps that track your social media use and shut off your phone once you hit a chosen time limit. You can even buy a “dumb phone” that has no access to apps and is mostly used for communication. 

Interested in learning more about social media? Pause Before You Play has written other articles about decreasing screen use among youth, starting a digital detox, and more. 

If thinking about your screen usage brings up questions about your online gaming or betting habits, you can find education, resources, and more at And if you’re concerned about youth gaming or screen time, visit

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