Social Media Time Spent Affects Teen Mental Health

With the recent release of a new iPhone and social media apps constantly updating with more features, it’s hard not to get distracted. Phones today are our navigators, ways of communication, life organizers, and entertainers. But the ability to literally use our smartphones for everything may bring consequences. 

A recent study led by psychology professor Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University, published in The Atlantic, revealed many troubling statistics about teens and the effects technology is having on the generation as a whole. 

This study examines the mental health and typical behaviors of the “iGen” generation, which entails people born between 1995 and 2012.  

The study found that “eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to say they’re unhappy, compared to those who devote less time to social media.” 

Cedar Cliff’s newest addition to the nursing staff, Lee Dairo, agreed strongly with this assertion. In her 39 years of being an R.N., she admits noticing a “big difference” in the behavior of children since the mainstreaming of social media and the availability of gaming at any times on phones. 

The amount of sleep kids get is directly related to the involvement of social media and electronic devices in their lives. The average teen should be getting nine hours of sleep a night, while those who sleep for less than seven hours are significantly sleep deprived.

 The study examined the state of sleep deprivation in teens and found staggering statistics revealing the ties between sleep and technology.  “Two national surveys show that teens who spend three or more hours a day on electronic devices are 28 percent more likely to get less than seven hours of sleep. This is in comparison to those who spend fewer than three hours on social media. Teens who visit social-media sites every day are 19 percent more likely to be sleep deprived.” 

Senior Lily Potvin agrees that social media can be distracting but doesn’t let it affect her sleep. “I typically don’t care enough to constantly check, and I really like to sleep.”

The study found that the more times teens spend looking at their screens, the more likely they are to report depression symptoms.

 Dairo also agreed with this statement and has seen the effects of this phenomena firsthand in the nurse’s office. Depression and body dysmorphia seem increasingly present as it is so easy to see people posting photos edited and filtered online and then feel jealous or left out. 

This phenomena is commonly referred to as FOMO, otherwise known as, the fear of missing out. 

Junior Zeljana Turuntas agreed that “FOMO is real.”  Jealousy and exclusion accompany this, and it often stems from social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. 

The fear of missing out causes stress and anxiety, but also makes people feel excluded. Social media and the constant posting which this entails, amplifies the power of FOMO. 

Junior Kiera Hoover-Bennett agreed. “They exclude me, and it makes me feel left out.” 

Not everyone is affected by FOMO. Sophomore Ian Alicea said, “I don’t pay attention to social media. It seems like too much drama.”

A study conducted by Duke University examined the relationship between technology and at-risk teens (already at-risk for mental illness because of genetics or other predispositions). It was found that those at-risk teens who used their phones more than the average teen, were more likely to show signs of problems, such as lying and fighting. 

On the contrary, this study also found that “More time spent texting was associated with fewer same-day symptoms of depression and anxiety,” according to Alison Jones of Duke University. 

The use of smartphones with such a pronounced presence in daily life is a new experience for society and will require work to understand how to take advantage of the wealth of ability it allows. 


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