A recent study from San Diego University identified a correlation between the increased amount of time teens spend using electronic devices and increased symptoms of depression. The study does not prove that increased screen time causes increased symptoms of depression, but does indicate that there may be a link between the two.
Girls were six times more likely to report symptoms of depression compared to the boys in the study. A potential reason for this may be the different ways they are spending their screen time. Boys tend to spend the majority of their time playing video games and girls spend more time on social media.
Social media offers instant and constant feedback from peers. Texting and messaging through social media apps has become a common way for teens to communicate with one another. They may feel more comfortable expressing thoughts and feelings via social media than they would express in person. While this could be helpful in providing them support, it becomes a concern when this is the only way they express their needs to others.
As a parent it is important to understand how your teen is spending their time on electronics.
Tips for Parents
- Get to know how your teens are spending their time – what apps are they using and which games they are playing? Who are they connected to?
- Encourage positive social activities and spending time with friends in person.
- Schedule electronic-free time for your family and spend that time together.
- If your child is spending more time being isolated, talk to them and encourage them to engage in a positive activity.
- Encourage physical activity and taking breaks from screen time.
As the Internet and social media continues to grow, parents should educate themselves on how their children are using these tools and watch for signs that may indicate depression.
If you or your child need immediate help due to having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741-741. If there is an immediate safety concern, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.