I’ve heard that depression can be connected with too much screen time. Should I be concerned about how much time my kids are on their phones?
That’s a good question, and the simple answer is yes. Many parents are aware of the dangers that harmful images and content can cause for their kids, but few realize that screen time itself can be just as harmful.
Studies show that kids who consume more than three hours of screen time a day have increased rates of depression, regardless of the content viewed. Kids who consume more than 5 hours a day are 71% more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. With 95% of teens owning or having access to a smartphone, this should be a concern for parents.
Social media has created an environment to develop and maintain relationships. The fear of missing out and the need to feel included keeps kids connected to each other through technology. The danger these types of relationships present is the perception that everyone else’s life is more exciting than their own. They question how they are stacking up to others.
Kids question how they are stacking up to others.
People naturally like to present the best parts of their life over media, which can make kids compare their own lives to those of others. This causes discontentment and puts pressure on them to find exciting things to post about to seek out approval and “likes” from friends.
Another real concern is bullying. This has become such a problem that kids can be scrutinized by their peers 24/7 without parents knowing it is happening. Studies have shown that kids who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to harm themselves or display suicidal behavior.
And sadly, bullying is not a topic kids bring up to their parents. They can feel embarrassed and ashamed and fear their parents’ involvement may make things worse. Kids want to fit it and being labeled a “snitch” would not help them to fit in with their peers. Parents need to be aware of who their kids are talking to.
Kids are also becoming less likely to interact with others in person, preferring online relationships. Life skills and communication skills in children today are underdeveloped, which causes a struggle when they face real-world situations.
Bullying is not a topic kids bring up to their parents.
Many modern teens are replacing real relationships with online interaction instead of using social media to supplement existing relationships. But physical connections with people are essential in the development of good psychological health. As kids become less able to interact on a physical level with people, social anxiety increases. This leads to feelings of isolation, which directly affects depression.
I would encourage you to really be involved in your kids’ device usage through accountability software such as Accountable2You, and teach appropriate boundaries and limits with how much and how often technology is used.
There are so many opportunities and activities you can get your kids involved in that can directly benefit their growth and development. Put down those devices and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety!
Yours in accountability,
“Ask Ali” is an op-ed column answering common questions about accountability and related topics.