Serious psychological distress.
Suicidal ideation and death by suicide.
These are not the words we want to have to use when describing our children.
And yet, since the mid-2000s, these are the words that describe more and more teens in the United States.
In fact, between 2005 and 2017, major depression in teens increased by 52 percent. Psychological distress spiked by a shocking 71 percent. And suicide rates for 18-19-year-olds rose by 56 percent.
Well, according to the brand new study, the amount of time teens are spending with electronic communication and digital media is to blame.
And though adults are also affected by increased technology obsessions, the study reveals that this generation of teenagers—born right at the cusp of smartphone mania—are the ones really suffering. In particular, our girls.
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By 2017, 1 in 5 adolescent girls was familiar with experiencing a major depressive episode.
And first episodes strongly predict future episodes. Which can lead to progressive psychological injury and even suicide.
Is it obvious yet? The effects of these technological dependency trends aren’t something we can take lightly. Which means we can’t keep handing over smartphones to young, developing minds that don’t have the cognitive ability or emotional intelligence to handle the immense responsibility that comes with them.
Back in 2016, the average age for a kid in the U.S. to receive their first cell phone was 10.3 years old. I’m guessing it’s decreased even in the last 3 years.
Kids this young, while they may need a way to communicate in emergencies, are not equipped for the hailstorm of bells and whistles that accompanies having a smart phone: social media, the nightmare that is YouTube, and the inherent and constant distraction, to name a few. And when they are given these things from the beginning of their cognizant lives, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of failure.
So now what?
Maybe you’re still trying to figure out the best time to get your kids their first smart phone, or maybe you’ve already pulled the trigger and feel regret seeping in. No matter your situation, let me remind you of something major:
WE ARE THE PARENTS.
We have the right, and the responsibility, to alter decisions based on new information and understanding. It’s on us to call family meetings and discuss concerns and adjust the way things work in our homes. And now is the time to do it. We can’t play fast and loose with our kids’ mental and emotional, and even physical, well-being because we fear their reactions to big changes or because it’s easier to just not deal with it.
This may be the pinch point for many of us as studies like these open our eyes to the modifications we need to make in order to raise happy, healthy kids in the midst of this technological tornado. But I have zero doubt that after the bottleneck of change will come the necessary freedom from that seemingly inescapable storm.