Teens, Technology and Mental Health
I bet you’ve seen a lot in the news lately about the impact of technology on the mental health of teens. If so, like so many of you I’m trying to make sense of it all. Several articles referenced generational research by Jean Twenge. Who in 2011-12 saw something shocking in her research that “scared her to the core.” More than 50% of teens had iphones, therefore creating the iGen. The iGen, born between 1995 and 2012, have never known life without smartphones!
One article, included alarming statistics on technology:
- 1 in 5 children has a mental health condition
- 43% increase in ADHD
- 37% increase in clinical level depression in teens
- And even more alarming a 200% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old
Additionally, for at-risk teens technology can be linked to problems with attention, behavior and self-regulation, according to a 2017 Duke study.
Some say, this generation is on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades!!!
However, it’s not all so bleak. The positive impact of technology for the iGen was reported in an article stating this generation is physically safer, they drink less, drive later, and are waiting longer to have physical relationships with significant others.
For adolescents, 11-15 of lower economic status, a study found technology also had a positive impact. For example on days when teens spent more time using technology they were less likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression. Possibly meaning, the short term impact of technology is beneficial, but not long term. In this study, teens spent approximately 2.3 hours a day using technology and sent 41 texts a day on average.
What can we do about it, a few tips:
- For parents hold off as long as possible getting your child a smartphone.
- If your kids need a phone to call for rides, emergencies, etc…get them a basic phone.
- Set ground rules and monitor usage (no technology while eating dinner, etc.)
- If all else fails, there are apps to control the amount of time and restrict viewing.
- Model appropriate use of technology (I know it’s tough, I can’t put down my ipad!) ☺
- Limit your technology distractions while your kids are home.
- Talk to your kids and encourage they to come to you if something is wrong, say it daily!
I know it seems overwhelming and scary, but you are not alone and we can help!
By: Allison West Kaskey M.Ed., Eds., LPCC-S