In recent years, there has been a serious rise in depression rates among teenagers. Roughly 11% of adolescents experience a depressive disorder by the time they reach 18 years old. This number, unfortunately, is only increasing. Between 2010and 2015, the number of teens showing signs and symptoms of depression increased by 33%, and teen suicide attempts jumped up 23%. Most troubling, the number of 13 or 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31%.
According to Medical News Today, as of 2017, 82% of Americans own or can operate a smartphone, and they are attached to their phone at all hours of the day and night. As for teenagers in the United States, 73% of them have access to a smartphone, and 92% of them say they go online every single day.
What’s the connection between the two? Well, to put it simply, we don’t know for sure, but many therapists and mental health experts fear that smartphone dependency has a negative effect on teen mental health. Many therapists have found that teens who are constantly on smartphones are more depressed than those who are not. So while many teens “love” their phone, it may be harming their ability to live their best life. According to extensive research, teens who spend more than five hours a day online are 71% more likely to have suicide risk factors than those who spend less than one hour a day on their smartphone.
So why are smartphones making teens more depressed, with many requiring therapy services at such a young age? Teens who are glued to their smartphones are no longer interacting with their friends in the real world, and some teens struggle to make these connections in the first place. Face-to-face connection is one of the biggest enhancers of human happiness, and smartphones are depriving teens of this basic human contact. Even worse, feeling socially isolated is also a major risk factor for suicide.
Smartphones are also depriving teenagers of much needed sleep. Teens who spend more time on their phones are much less likely than others to get enough sleep. A lack of sleep is yet another big risk factor for depression, so the correlation is revealed in yet another facet.
As a parent, you may feel helpless to separate your teen from their phone, but there are many things you can do for your teen. First off, therapy is always a great idea for any teen that may be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. It may also be a good idea to help your teen limit their time on their phone and on social media. Let your teen know that you are there for them and that they are not alone. For further information or question, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist who specializes in talking to teens.