Cell phones and mental health among teens

It always seemed to me that cellphone use is abit obsessive compulsive. Hunching over this little device updating oneself on one's "likes" and emails. I feel like it's a symptom of being hyperconnected, the state of having a nagging feeling you're missing something or some message that is vital for your peace of mind. It also acts as a social buffer from having to interact with people in your real environment, presenting the facade of having to take care of some important business and having no time to socialize. It's socially acceptable to ignore people while texting.

"A new study out this month from the Pew Research Center says 1 in 4 American teens is on the Internet almost constantly. Pew cites the widespread availability of smartphones.

Doctors say they're seeing more anxiety in kids these days, and they think the phones have something to do with it.

A leading child psychologist made headlines recently when she blamed the internet and smartphones for what she calls an "explosion in mental health problems" among young people, from suicide to self-harm.

"Something is clearly happening," said Julie Lynn Evans, "because I am seeing the evidence in the numbers of depressive, anorexic, cutting children who come to see me. And it always has something to do with the computer, the Internet and the smartphone."
Duke University Child Psychologist Robin Gurwitch says she also sees a relationship between smartphones and kids experiencing depression and anxiety.
"Teenage girls, it's the worst: 'If I miss a call, I know they're going to all talk about me,' " Gurwitch said.

The Pew Research Center says girls overwhelmingly use social media more than boys, and Dr. Gurwitch says girls may feel pressure to be online constantly.

"It becomes if I'm not connected, what does that mean? What are they saying about me? What are they doing?" Gurwitch said. "So we do see some increase in anxiety disorders."

Gerwitch says being connected, not being left out, has created a whole new worry for kids.

"I think oftentimes kids are not going to be maybe even aware or strong enough mentally to block some of that stuff out," said Dr. Holly Danneman. "And eventually it starts to just wear 'em down."

As a mother of six, Danneman has hard and fast rules about her kids' technology use - like no devices at the dinner table. Her high school-aged son and daughter have more freedom than their younger siblings, and her daughter Maria is already learning what can happen when kids make bad decisions.

"I've seen friends just get this bad reputation and never be able to get it back," Danneman said.

Rachel Folz's work life is all about technology. She's a digital marketing manager, but she and her husband leave technology at the door when they come home.

"There are no cell phones at the dinner table," Folz said.
Four-year old Lucy gets almost no internet exposure. She does have a kid's tablet, but it doesn't connect online and only gets to use it about once a week.

"We decided from early on that we wanted Lucy to have a more unplugged childhood," Folz said.

Folz says she already sees benefits like Lucy's great attention span and her kindness, but disconnecting completely is not for every family. Danneman's kids connect at different levels according to age, and she's constantly monitoring.

"I set these limits early. They know it's a one and done. It's not a two and done, it's a one and done, and don't disappoint because it's a privilege," Danneman said.

Dr. Gurwitch says parents need to set some rules for when and how often kids can connect, and stay vigilant about the content they're seeing.

"Now we can get pornography. Children can access that," she said. "They can access anorexia sites, drug sites, self harm sites."
And perhaps most important, model good behavior ourselves.

"Are parents sitting at the dinner table saying yeah, yeah tell me about your day after I answer email or a text that just came in?" Gurwitch said.

No doubt, technology helps us in many ways. Learning at school? Definitely. Teaching kids about building relationships? Maybe not. It's all about balance and finding what's right for your family.

By making conscious decisions, the Danneman and Folz families have found the right balance for theirs.

Gurwitch says there's no hard and fast rule for when kids are ready for an iPod or smartphone. She says base it on what it's being used for, and whether the child needs it to communicate with parents.

Also, if they lose track of a device or damage it too often, kids probably aren't ready for the responsibility."===http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Study...85161.html
Don't microwave your brains.

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