Smart-phones Trigger 30+% Increase in Teen Suicide

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12/1/17  A ten-year-old Colorado girl hanged herself after a video of her was posted online.  https://tinyurl.com/ycrflygb

A group of researchers, in Clinical Psychological Science showed the drastic impact of smartphones on teen mental health.

 Between 2010 – 2015 among 13 – 18-year-olds

  • Depression increased 33%
  • Teen suicide attempts increased 23%
  • Suicide jumped 31%.

 What changed?  The social structure of American children now revolves around virtual “friends” and “selfies;” self-importance, notoriety, acceptance, and electronic “gear.” These needs are the same as ever, but the structures, and ways of connecting changed drastically. 

Now, teens stay alert to every text, email, Facebook posting, and Instagram message; they play computer games maniacally; sleep less at a critical stage of development; they barely notice the real world around them.  Even when they are together physically, they play vicious, amoral, computer games, mentally isolating them and pitting one against another (e.g. World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto).

Teenagers develop identities, feel lonely, realize they are separate from others,  feel unworthy, measured on an impossible scale of unending perfection, want independence, but see they are not self-sufficient, are completely dependent on the adults in their lives.  But, what is different about that?   

We all suffered these growing pains, but mostly in private; now teens have zero privacy, addicted to the idea that worthiness equals public notice, acceptance, and approval.  They live for attention, “Look at me and what I did.” is the mantra of teens in 2017.   This transparency exposes them to what their peers post about them on social media, especially “shaming.”  Teenagers have always been vicious to each other in the struggle to be on top, or at least survive.  Teens’ private lives, become public, like embarrassing intimate photos; the cruelty stays imbedded online for anyone to see, forever.

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Sexting, is insanity; trying to impress someone, can lead to immortal images.

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That is much more damaging than the teasing and taunting kids have always done.  Remember, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you?”  Not true for today’s teens. They have paper-thin egos that bruise and tear from any loss of face. Girls have increased anxiety, depression, eating, sleep, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Screen time per day is closely related to suicide risk; the study showed that teens who spend less than 2 hours per day on-screen, have normal levels of risk.  As average on-screen time increases, including texting, so does the suicide risk level:

Risk of at least one suicide risk factor from 2009 to 2015:

Screen Hours/ day = Suicide Risk Factors

2  = 27%

3  = 34%

5+= 48%

What to do?  If you want to support someone screen-addicted, work with them to increase in-person social interactions, not involving screens.  Manage on-screen personal time to 2 hours or less.  Schedule screen-free days or weekends.

Here is a link to the research:  http://bit.ly/2zianG5

 

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