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HomeEditorialHigher rates of depression in teenagers are linked to smartphones

Higher rates of depression in teenagers are linked to smartphones

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Yesterday in a shocking incident a 16-year-old girl committed suicide just because she was not allowed to play games on a smartphone. She was the daughter of an autorickshaw driver. They are five children, four daughters, and one son. The son is much valued in the family and he had the upper hand on everything. There was one mobile phone among five children and this 16-year-old was addicted to mobile games.

There was a minor quarrel between the 16-year-old victim and her younger brother over playing games on mobile. After which the girl came out of the house with Ratol, a rat-killing drug from a nearby medical store, and drank it in front of the younger brother. The younger brother informed the family about this. The family immediately took the girl to Shatabdi Hospital; there she was declared dead.

These days’ teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless, and are more likely to consider suicide. The sudden increase in teens’ symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors, and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular. Especially during the lockdown, the cellphone was the only outlet for their emotional needs and desires.

Many research studies have claimed that the teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 per cent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that’s regardless of the content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time — not the specific content — goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.

The idea that they’re under an increasing amount of academic pressure and they’re spending more and more time on schoolwork doesn’t turn out to be true when you look at these large, nationally representative surveys. For example, there’s a large survey of entering college students, so that’s exactly the population you’d expect would feel a lot of pressure to have spent a lot of time on homework and extracurricular activities.

Among that group, when they report on their last year in high school, homework time is about the same as it was in the ’80s, and the time they spend on extracurricular activities are also about the same … The other thing is, we also found that teens who spend more time on homework are actually less likely to be depressed.

Moreover, they have to handle the demands of social media. And some of the mental health trends are the most pronounced for the youngest teens, as well. Every teen has her/his social media account. They update every small thing on their status. Smartphones have become their status symbols, lifeline, and the main resource to live connected with all that they want. Smartphones are having a profound impact on the way adolescents today communicate with one another and spend their free time. And while some experts say it’s too soon to ring alarm bells about smartphones, others argue we understand enough about young people’s emotional and developmental vulnerabilities to recommend restricting kids’ escalating phone habits.

Kids who used social media daily were 13% more likely to report high levels of Many types of research claimed that the kids have more depressive symptoms than those who used social less frequently. Overall, kids in the study who spent low amounts of time engaged in in-person social interaction, but high amounts of time on social media were the most likely to be depressed.

Some experts have pointed to the aftermath of the lockdown, or rising student workloads, as possible non-device explanations for young people’s recent struggles. New research presents compelling evidence that the more time teenagers spend on smartphones and other electronic screens, the more likely they are to feel depressed and think about, or attempt, suicide. Screen time should be considered a modern-day risk factor for depression and suicide.

There is a concerning relationship between excessive screen time and risk for death by suicide, depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempts. All of those mental health issues are very serious. This is something that the parents and society at large should ponder. Depression and suicide rates for teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have increased dramatically since 2020, especially among girls, and excessive use of electronic devices is a likely culprit.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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