Smartphones Can Lead to Social Isolation, Teen Suicide Mar 7, 2018 14:10:51 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Mar 7, 2018 14:10:51 GMT -5
Smartphones Can Lead to Social Isolation, Teen Suicide
It’s been 10 years since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone. Today 92 percent of teens have a cellphone. Though smartphones have made it easier for us to communicate with each other in many different formats – including social media – they have paradoxically increased the risk of social isolation. This is especially true among teenage girls, who may look to Snapchat or Instagram and discover a party is going on to which they were not invited. And cyberbullying – something that didn’t exist until a few years ago – has caused far too many teens terrible pain, making life miserable and driving some to suicide. The Centers for Disease Control found that from 2010 to 2015, the rate of suicide and severe depression increased by more than 30 percent in teens 13- to 18-years-of-age – a shocking increase, and girls account for 60 percent of the increase.
Our teens spend a lot less time today talking to each other face-to-face than they did a few years ago and a lot more time communicating with each other on their smartphones without saying a word. They post messages, photos and videos. Waiting rooms of bus and train stations, airports and restaurants are filled with teens texting rather than talking to each other.
A study recently released by Florida State University revealed a strong correlation between suicidal thoughts and cellphone use, with those who used electronic devices more than five hours per day showing close to a 50 percent incidence of at least one suicidal behavior. The study’s authors reported that “adolescents who spent more time on new media (including social media and electronic devices such as smartphones) were more likely to report mental health issues.” Conversely, the authors reported that adolescents who spent more time away from their smartphones – engaging in activities such as sports and exercise, doing homework, reading print media and attending religious services – were less likely to have mental health problems.
In a letter to Apple, Janus Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System – which together own about $2 billion in Apple stock – criticized the company for not helping oversee the overuse of iPhones by children. The authors of the letter were concerned about the proven negative effects of heavy iPhone use including depression, insomnia and problems learning. Apple and its defenders replied by placing the blame on parents. In fact, recent research reveals that many young children in their formative years spend more time with their phones than they do with their parents.
A new report from Common Sense indicates that 42 percent of children 8-years-old or younger now have their own tablet – up from just 1 percent in 2011. These children are spending 48 minutes per day with mobile devices – up from five minutes in 2011. This certainly isn’t Apple’s fault, though the company is supplying the devices. More parental control of phones would really help.
What to do? France is in the process of completely banning cellphones in lower and middle schools. This is something school districts in the U.S. should seriously consider. Another option is for schools to provide iPads or other electronic devices, restricted to school-related or independent academic work.
Other locations frequented by children should consider restrictions as well. For example, my children have all been to sleepaway camps where regular cell phone use is not allowed. This definitely enhances the experience and appreciation of the outdoors.
Another highly useful approach is to teach young users about proper etiquette and how to best use smartphones, tablets and computers. For example, Cyber Civics was developed by Diana Graber, an expert on digital literacy, to direct and inform middle school children. According to the Cyber Civics website: “Lessons emphasize critical thinking, ethical discussion and decision- making about digital media issues ... all through role-play, hands-on projects and problem- solving tasks.” Graber told me in an email exchange: “Because Cyber Civics is taught to students weekly from 6th to 8th grades, it provides them a ‘safe space’ to talk about and work through the complexities of their digital lives – which are many … including sometimes, feelings of isolation and depression. When we conduct activities in the classroom that address cyberbullying … we teach students strategies to reach out to those who may seem in need of help. The goal is that they learn to transfer empathetic face-to-face ‘human’ skills to the online world. Or even better yet, discover the importance of offline relationships too!”
We can’t turn back the clock to eliminate smartphones, any more than we can turn back the clock to the days before cars and start traveling on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages to cut traffic accidents. But just as we teach our children how to drive safely before we give them the car keys, we need to do a better job teaching them how to handle smartphones safely and how to develop their basic communication skills before giving them a phone of their own.
Source: Dr. Mark Siegel, Fox News, January 9, 2018.
See also “In Children, ‘Screens’ Are as Addictive as Heroin”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/5824/children-screens-addictive