According to studies, social media platforms exacerbate anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments. Since 2001 parents have been contacting us for help with teen issues, however over the past five years the most common concern is technology addiction.
Teenage mental health has become a national crisis that we need to take seriously. Teen depression doubled between 2010 and 2019, which was before the lockdowns, and then continued to rise during and post the pandemic years at about the same rate.
The most recent report from the CDC reveals that nearly 3 in 5 (57 percent) of U.S. teen girls feel sad or hopeless–this is double that of boys. This is the highest level reported over the past decade, with a nearly 60 percent increase.
Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, recently wrote, “We have had hard evidence that teen mental health was in crisis for at least five years.”
Although she shared it was easy to blame the pandemic, this teenage mental health crisis epidemic started before 2020.
What is causing teen depression?
Some experts point to social media. While social media platforms are not inherently harmful, there are negative effects associated with their use.
Young people (as well as many adults) are unaware that platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with depression, anxiety, and even physical ailments.
With the constant intake of social media, a common denominator that many teens struggle with that are suffering from depression is their academic performance. This can be attributed to poor study habits due to their lack of attention span from an overload of technology.
Three Ways to Improve Teen Wellness
Most of you realize the train has left the station as the majority of young have cell phones just about sewn into the palms of their hands. This doesn’t mean you are not in control–you are still the parent, and parenting is still required. As a reminder, you are their parent first.
1. Technology agreement. Most households have a cell phone or technology agreement, but it’s time to enforce it. Sit down as a family and revisit it. Review the screen-time limits, updated passwords, social media permissions, etc., and most importantly, what the consequences are if any of the rules are broken. If you don’t have one, it’s never too late to start.
- Family mealtime is for eating, not emails. Create digital detox time.
- Limit the notifications on their phones. Reducing these sounds can reduce anxiety and stress.
- Whatever social platforms your teen is on, are you also on them?
2. Buy a safe or lockbox. Does this sound extreme? Your teen’s mental health is a priority. In a Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), nearly 1 in 3 teen girls struggled with suicide ideation, up 60 percent from a decade ago. Place your teen’s phone in the safe/lockbox at the designated time (at night) for them to have a good night’s sleep. Studies have proven technology can affect your teen’s sleep and mental health.
- Encourage your teen to read books at night. An American Psychology Association study revealed that only 20 percent of teens read books for pleasure, while over 80 percent say they use social media daily. Twenge noted that “Being able to read long-form text is crucial for understanding complex issues and developing critical thinking skills.”
- Replace the phone with a book in the evening. Have a good selection of books available for your teenager.
3. Exercise, yoga, or meditation. It’s about disconnecting from screens and connecting with themselves. Not only does daily exercise (even jogging, biking, or walking) help reduce anxiety, sadness, and stress, but it also helps increase concentration and focus. With regular practice, teens will find that meditation, yoga, or any form of exercise provides a much-needed break from their busy lives and can be an effective way to improve their mental health and well-being.
- Start a daily routine for physical activity.
- If possible, join a gym.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.
It’s not about asking your teen to forgo social media. It is about finding a healthy balance in life–one that doesn’t affect their life offline and especially their mental health.
If you have exhausted your local resources and are considering a therapuetic boarding school for your tech-addicted teenager, contact us to learn more about your options.