Rest of the Story

Last week I presented Dr. Jean Twenge’s startling study about smartphones and their adverse effect on teenagers’ relationship with their families. But, she also predicts other serious problems if just a one hour per day addiction to the devices occurs. It’s not just family interaction that suffers.

By Pat Merriman

These teens aren’t socializing with their friends either, “The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently.” The end result? A National Institute on Drug Abuse funded study found that the more time spent “on screen” made teens far less happy and prone to depression.

And, it don’t take much—only 6+ hours per week. Twenge points out that kids who spend more time physically with their friends are more happy. It’s that simple. Twenge’s advice, “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen…Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.” And, that’s not Chicken Little squawking about the sky falling.

“Since 2007, the homicide rate among teens has declined, but the suicide rate has increased. As teens have started spending less time together, they have become less likely to kill one another, and more likely to kill themselves. In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.” Time magazine reports that “From 2007 to 2015 alone, suicide rates doubled among teen girls and by more than 30 percent among teen boys.”

Twenge blames social media. For all its ability to “link kids day and night”, it also increases “the age-old teen concern about being left out.” All of this documentation of the day-to-day lives of iGen’ers relentlessly reinforces for these socially isolated kids that they’re being left out. “This trend has been especially steep among girls. 48 percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys.”

Girls also anxiously await “the affirmation of comments and likes.” If they don’t get the likes and positive comments, it bothers them—a lot! “Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent…The rise in suicide, too, is more pronounced among girls…three times as many 12-to-14-year-old girls killed themselves in 2015 as in 2007, compared with twice as many boys.”

“Social media gives middle- and high-school girls a platform on which to carry out the style of aggression they favor, ostracizing and excluding other girls around the clock.”

Teen sleep is also being adversely affected by this phenomenon, “Fifty-seven percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. In just the four years from 2012 to 2015, 22 percent more teens failed to get seven hours of sleep.” And, with most toddlers easily swiping their way around an iPad today or messing with their parents’ iphone when they’re not looking…

And, it ain’t just adolescent socializing. Kids who experience depression are more likely to suffer from it as an adult. Psychologically, they’re just more vulnerable than Millennials were. Twenge sums up that it’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades and, much of this deterioration can be traced to their smart phone. Parents should think long and hard about the issue.

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