The smartphone has substantially altered the way we live our lives. We can order pizza with a click, settle an argument with a quick search, and completely consolidate our schedule all with the same device and within minutes of each other. The consistent progress in the tech world is a testament to human ingenuity and our ability to improve. However, as with all things, smartphones are not without risk. Since the rise of the smartphone, there has been a sharp increase in depression in all demographics but especially with teenagers.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the smartphone. It is a tool and a toy all rolled into one. The danger comes from how it is used. Smartphones tend to alienate people when used too often. Perhaps you have been on a bus or walked down the street recently. How many people were on their smartphones? When we use this technology, we shut ourselves off from the world around us. This is particularly dangerous for teens who already feel alienated. Research suggests that as time on a smartphone increases, depression and the potential for suicidal thoughts increase as well.
How do smartphones cause depression?
When teenagers use their phones too much, they tend to detach from the world around them. This can actually be measured. Studies have shown that the modern generation of teens spends less time hanging out with friends, going on dates, or even showing interest in driving! Driving used to be the hallmark of freedom for a teen, but not even driving stacks up against the enticement of social media and screens. By spending less time with their peers, teenagers report a growing sense of loneliness and depression.
What can you do?
As with everything, the most important thing you can do is to talk with your teen. Developing a strong, healthy, and continuing relationship with your teen is the best defense against any number of challenges they may face. In particular, discuss your teen’s use of technology and how it makes them feel. Develop boundaries and expectations, and then enforce them. Encourage your child to spend time with friends and get out of the house and away from their screen. Most importantly, make certain your child feels connected and supported.
In the end, it is important to remember that smartphones have their place, as do actual relationships and face to face activities with friends and family. You don’t need to be afraid of your child’s smartphone usage, but you do need to be aware of it and guide your child to make good decisions with their time.