Is the Internet Ruining America's Youth's Mental Health?
Over these past few years, epidemic depression and unprecedented rates of suicide have devastated our nation’s youth. As of this writing (May 2018), suicide is the third leading cause of death for American young people between the ages of 15 to 24. Considering that 20% of US Teens suffer from depression and that only 30% of those teens receive any psychiatric treatment, teenage suicide appears to be a macabre issue that will get worse.
We are currently living in a time when a teenager kills themselves every minute and a half, leaving many parents to ask, “why are kids more depressed and suicidal than we were?”
Well, Would You Go Back?
Today, if you were to ask the average adult in their mid-30’s, “would you go back to your teenage years if it was somehow made possible?” and that person was to answer honestly, they’d probably respond with an emphatic, most likely explicitly phrased answer that more or less translates to, “Nope!”
So, why aren’t we eager to undo Father Clock's best efforts to make us old by going back to a more youthfully active, time in our life?... Say, our sophomore year?
Well, because for most of us, that was the year we were dumped by Kelly because our acne decided to show up out of nowhere, which just happened to be at around the same time that our hand-me-down, rusted, 300$ Jilapi - that came with no seatbelts, working radio, or cup holder to conveniently store what was left of our dignity and/or pride - couldn’t compete with Chad Fullerton's ‘bitchin’ IRoc - which, of course, came with automatic windows, a “CHAD#1” novelty license plate, and a tape deck which seemingly was only capable of playing one song, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions, to boot.
Truthfully - with the exception of guys like Chad, who, (let’s be honest) DEFINITELY peaked in high school - we wouldn’t go back to our allegedly ‘coveted’ youth because being a teenager was awful.
But more importantly, and if we were to be completely honest, we wouldn’t go back because being a teenager today would be 'lamer' now than it was during the Carter or Reagan administration.
Best efforts to be humorous aside, we only mention this relatable allegory for one vital and specific reason: Parents need to be made aware of what their child is currently experiencing and understand that some modern stresses for teens of today are entirely foreign to anything they could truly relate to.
Additionally, we hope that this article will help parents gain a broader and more sophisticated understanding of the uniquely modern threats their child currently faces, even while they're safe at home and under the watchful protection of their parents.
Below, we will discuss how the advent of social media may be a significant contributing factor to our youth’s contemporary misery.
Today’s Teens Face Ultramodern Mental health-related Threats
As everyone who has lived through it can attest, the time of adolescence is a naturally chaotic one. For teens, life is full of unsettling life events that include experiencing dramatic, physical, emotional, and social changes, all the while having to meet academic, and possibly even athletic expectations.
After giving the matter any thought, whatsoever, It’s not difficult to speculate as to why teens are naturally more anxious and depressed than that of adults or small children.
But while we had it rough back in our day, make no mistake about it: being a teenager in today’s America is even more perilous than most adults living in their mid-30’s would even be able to comprehend.
One of the most poignant examples of this can be found in today’s online culture; with every thought and moment of their life being eternally scrutinized and permanently broadcasted online, cyberbullying has become a modern existential threat to our youth’s mental health.
While there are several other examples of why today’s teen has it harder, let’s instead focus on how terrifying the social climate of the modern teen has become.
Thanks to the world wide web, every teen today is more vulnerable than those before them. Just think of it, every embarrassing moment a child experiences in today’s age is in serious jeopardy of being exposed to the countless masses via facebook, or any other online tool that modern bullies can use for exploiting their helpless victim. While growing up was never easy, yesterday’s youth could not possibly imagine facing such contemporary threats.
In the good ol’ days, before the internet, for example, adolescent torment from a bully would cease once a child returned home.
However, today’s cyber-bully, like a cowardice troll, can attack their vulnerable prey from anywhere in the world (where there is wifi, at least) and continue their nasty, incessant onslaught at any point in the day, even long after a victim returns to the "safety" of their home.
Just read, watch, or listen to the news; there are hundreds of children, some as young as 8 or 10, who have decided to kill themselves because of online harassment.
While we haven’t had enough time to substantially prove that online harassment plays a major role in today’s horrific, adolescent suicide statistics, it is but one of many modern threats our children face; one that is almost certainly a contributing factor in today’s unprecedented number of depressed teens.
America's Teens are Spending Too Much Time Online
Another example of how technology can have a devastating effect on a teen's mental health pertains to the hours they obsessively spend on their computer or phone screens.
As reported by USA news, "Researchers from San Diego State and Florida State universities discovered nearly half of teens who got five or more hours of screen time each day had experienced thoughts of suicide or prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness. That's nearly double that of teens who spent fewer than an hour in front of a screen."
As it turns out, teens don't even need to be harassed by emotionally-stunted bullies to become suicidally depressed. According to San Diego and Florida State's clinical study, simply spending more than a couple of hours a day online may prove to be fatal for today's screen-obsessed adolescents.