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Teens are more depressed because they’re more isolated

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chad McCoy, M.A., LPC

Edmond Family Counseling

There are some things that you cannot live without. Food, water, air, relationships, safety, belongingness, just to name a few. Without these things, we literally cannot survive. Of course, outside of the biologically imperative needs, we also have psychological and sociological needs, many of which follow a hierarchy. The most mandatory of which: A smartphone.

It’s an interesting idea that with the world at your fingertips, you could feel so isolated. With today’s technology, you can visit the Great Wall of China in the same day you visit Death Valley. You can connect with friends across the globe, or across the house. However, more teens are expressing increased levels of loneliness, decreased levels of happiness, and increased reports saying they feel depressed and overwhelmed. Maybe they should watch “Gladiator” again and really ponder Russell Crowe’s question: Are you not entertained?

Simply answered: Not always. In a discussion with Sheila Stinnett, our executive director, she described a young man who expressed that his phone was the “greatest source of joy and also, the greatest source of pain in his life.” Additionally, I shared in a conversation with a 16-year old female client that she would “literally starve herself if she had her phone taken away.” That’s such an extreme commitment to a relatively new evolvement of technology.

In 2016, 77%of adults and 92% of young adults reported that they owned a smartphone. Social media has become a necessity for young adults to stay connected, even when that connection is harmful to them. With even younger generations leaning heavily on social media and technology, that number will only grow. I’d even offer this: The disconnect and loneliness younger individuals characteristically feel may be more to do with the purposelessness of their interactions with others. Sure, taking a snap chat and sending it is purposeful on some level, but planning a time to meet with somebody, driving to meet them, and purposely engaging with them takes planning and thought. A decline in face to face social interaction can give some conclusory evidence to the increase of depression and unhappiness. As Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. writes in her Psychology Today article:

“Given the undeniably negative trends in teens' mental health and the evidence suggesting smartphone use is at least partially behind them, it makes sense to limit kids' and teens' smartphone use. As with any intervention, the risks of doing something versus doing nothing must be considered. There doesn't seem to be much risk involved in limiting smartphone use to 90 minutes a day or less. However, doing nothing and having teens continue to spend six-plus hours a day with new media risks having these negative mental health trends continue.”

It would be an improbable feat to remove technology from our life all together, but the ability to limit it and increase social involvement for younger generations could definitely be done. Before you take on this adventure, I’d wonder how much time you spend on your device versus how much time your child spends. I’d guess they’re spending far much more time. Well would you look at that? I got a Tweet.

Please enjoy more articles from Edmond Family Counseling on our website, http://www.edmondfamily.org, or on our Facebook page. We appreciate donations to support our mission of mental health and community.


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