Teens can spend a significant amount of time online. Whether they are using their phone, Ipad, laptop, or desktop doesn’t matter. It’s social media, texting, and Internet surfing that can contribute to a teen’s psychological concerns.
In fact, in a recent study, published in July 2015 in the online magazine Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking revealed that teens who spend two hours or more per day online were more likely to describe their mental health as “poor”. Additionally, the study also found that these same teens were less likely to have their self-described needs for mental health addressed.
Researchers analyzed responses from 750 students in grades 7 through 12 who completed a youth health survey. One quarter of these students reported that they accessed social networking sites for 2 or more hours per day. The responses also revealed that about one quarter of these teens said they had mental health needs that were going unmet. And about 13 percent said they had contemplated suicide. The study also revealed that high uses of social networking sites were linked to high risks for psychological distress as well as a high likelihood for suicidal thinking.
Another study found that teens who are heavy social media users are actually less content, tend to get into trouble more often, are sad or unhappy, and often are bored with their life. Although there are some benefits to exploring the world online, there are some risks for those who might already be vulnerable to peer rejection. One of the strongest predictors of depression is rejection, lack of close friends, and negative self views. Furthermore, there are many stories of teens who have attempted suicide as a result of experiencing forms of cyber bullying. Teens and their parents should be aware that the same risks that exist off the Internet also exist online.
These aren’t the first studies to reveal such information. Other studies that have investigated texting, phone use, and excessive Internet use by teens reveal similar findings. An article in the New York Times points out that texting, which can be incredibly distracting, can take a toll on a teen’s mental health. From a study done by Pew Research Center, teens are texting over 50 texts per day, and one third of teens are texting 100 or more per day. One in seven teens send more than 200 texts. It’s easier, teens say, to text than to make a phone call.
Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and director at Initiative on Technology believes that the excessive texting may cause a shift in the way teens develop. There’s a constant disruption in a teen’s attention from the task at hand, whatever that might be, to a text, back to his or her current activity, and back to the phone again. There’s very little ability to stay focused. Although texting isn’t causing mental illness, it might contribute to the severity of a teen’s symptoms.
It’s important that parents and caregivers monitor online use by teens. The research investigating the effects of too much technological use reveals that it’s simply not good for teen mental health.