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Digital blues Editorial: Teens need less Facebook and more face-time

Richmond Times-Dispatch - 11/17/2017


On Nov. 14, the Clinical Psychological Science journal published a study from San Diego State University that looked at possible correlations between increased rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in adolescents and the amount of time they spent on electronic devices such as cellphones and computers.

According to psychologist Jean Twenge, who led the study, there seems to be a direct correlation between the two - especially for teenage girls. Researchers asked teens ages 13 to 18 to respond to a series of statements, such as "Life often feels meaningless," that could indicate depression. They found that teens who spend three or more hours a day online tend to have a far greater risk of depression and suicidal thoughts and actions than those who spend no more than an hour or two online every day. The number of teens who affirmed they were depressed or had suicidal thoughts grew from 16 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2015.

Conversely, the researchers say that more time spent interacting face-to-face with friends and family - whether playing sports, shopping, or just talking - seems to provide a protection of sorts against negative thoughts and actions. In short: Face-time beats Facebook.

While Twenge says the study does not definitively prove that spending time online affects a teen's mood, it does seem to indicate that those who spend less time plugged in are the happier for it. While more research is needed, there's little doubt that most parents should be at least somewhat concerned about the amount of time kids spend texting or online.

It certainly does no harm to consider the advice we received from one mom who says limiting computer time and collecting cellphones an hour before bedtime has done wonders for the mental health of the entire family.


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