Mental Health Mondays: Could smartphones be affecting your kids’ mental health?
By India Ogazi
Increased reports of teen suicide have rattled our nation and city, of late, and multiple studies have shown a sharp increase in adolescent depression. Could teen smartphone use be contributing to this spike?
Researchers believe so. And Legacy Community Health therapist Roma Bhatt agrees.
“Yes, absolutely. I’ve seen kids and teenagers suffering from the impact of smartphones and social media, especially in regards to cyberbullying,” she says. Bhatt has seen not only depression among youth, but also anxiety, self-harm, aggression and refusal to go to school.
A lot of smartphone time is spent on social media, such as Instagram and Snapchat, which can cause youth to develop a poor self-image, comparing themselves to the perfectly Photoshopped images of celebrities and social-media stars. Many teens may not realize what they’re seeing is not real and become depressed in an unrealistic quest for perfection.
Director of Therapy Services for Legacy’s School-Based Clinics Teandra Gordon says her team has seen students suffering from the devastating effects of cyberbullying, as well. It can start with an impulsive decision to text a nude photo, which then gets circulated around the school, leaving the teen in a state of high anxiety and depression.
To keep your teen safe from the pitfalls of smartphone use, Gordon advises parents to spend quality time connecting with their children, create open pathways of communication, get them involved in extracurricular activities and monitor and limit their social media use. “If they’re on their phones all the time, it can also be very isolating, which can lead to depression,” she says.
Psychologist Jean Twenge, who has researched this issue, recently told NPR, “… half an hour, an hour a day, that seemed to be the sweet spot for teen mental health in terms of electronic devices.” And given the increase in youth depression, anxiety and suicide, it’s advice worth taking.
If you have a child that may be dealing with depression, anxiety or self-harm, don’t be afraid to seek the professional help of a therapist.