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Do Smartphones Impact Mental Health in Youth?

How Do Smartphones Impact Mental Health in Youth?

Smartphones are leaving teens isolated. Adolescents are at a greater risk for depression and anxiety. “Social media enhances friendships. But there is also evidence that overuse has a negative impact on self-esteem and satisfaction with their lives.”

Increased social media use causes mental health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidality

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless—classic symptoms of depression—surged 33%. Teen suicide attempts increased 23%. Even more troubling, the number of 13-18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31%.”

In that time, the biggest change among teens was the rise of smart phone technology. Studies show “suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.”

Do Underlying Issues Affect Mental Health in Youth?

Not all professionals believe smartphones are increasing mental health problems. Professor of Psychology, Christopher J. Ferguson, argues “self-isolating behavior associated with smartphone overuse is a symptom of an underlying mental health issue that runs deeper than an “addiction” to technology.”

Dopamine and Smart Phone Addiction

Dopamine is a release in the pleasure circuits of the brain. Daily activities such as exercise, eating, and good conversation all release dopamine. Technology use increases dopamine levels “50 to 100 percent above normal levels.” Are smartphones replacing traditional dopamine sources?

It’s safe to conclude that smartphones may or may not have a negative impact on mental health in youth. But, it’s a good idea for teens to limit their screen time. Spending too much time online “could still adversely affect mental health in indirect ways. Especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.”

Since 2010, mental health in youth is on the decline. “Teens are more depressed, and both suicide and suicide attempt rates among U.S. teens are up double digits.”

What Causes Depression?

Depression comes from:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Family environment
  • Bullying
  • Trauma

Several professionals argue that smartphones have nothing to do with the development of depression. “Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.”

Yet, others say, “vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression. This is due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep, or a combination of all three.”

To learn more about depression and how to get help, click here