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Study Finds Smartphone Usage Causes Depression In Teens

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Are smartphones making teenagers depressed?

Smartphones connect people like never before but the technology can also be a source of isolation. Teens seem to be using smartphones as an extra appendage - it's perpetually connected to their hands and being checked in a minute to minute intervals.

A new study found that this relationship with their phones may be detrimental to their mental health.

Smartphones: Connecting & Isolating

Stereotypes about teens have them constantly checking their phones from messages and posts from their peers. While the primary usage for smartphones is supposed to be for making calls, other features have surpassed phone calls as the main features used in the phones. Teens stay in touch with each other mainly through text messages.

"What we know is that if a kid has a cell phone there seems to be a greater association with the likelihood for depression," said Dr. Steven Schlozman from the Massachusetts General Hospital's Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds.

A study published in Clinical Psychological Science shows that use of social media, gaming, and Internet browsing causes a rise in depression symptoms and suicidal behaviors in teens. This spike in symptoms for the mental health issues occurred in 2012 the year smartphones became ubiquitous. This is when the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone went over 50 percent. 

Researchers findings show that teens spending more than five hours a day using smartphones are 71 percent more likely to be exposed to risk factors for suicide. Content consumed had no effect on mental health.

"It's an excessive amount of time spent on the device. So half an hour, an hour a day, that seemed to be the sweet spot for teen mental health in terms of electronic devices," said Jean Twenge, an author on the study. "At two hours a day, there was only a slightly elevated risk. And then three hours a day and beyond is where you saw the more pronounced increase in those who had at least one suicide risk factor."

It's difficult to limit time on smartphones because they can be pulled out at any time. Twenge says that it's best to keep smartphone usage down to two hours or less a day.

Children are now receiving their first smartphones at the age of 10. Twenge recommends that this is moved to later in life at age 14.

Teens that age are better able to handle the pressures of social media at that age. Twenge says that teens in 8th grade are more likely to be depressed than those in 10th and 12th grade. 

Twenge has also argued that this change may have ruined an entire generation.

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