If you ask, one out of three teens say they feel psychologically distressed. And the number of teens who report signs of depression and anxiety that reach a clinical level has increased in the past few years.
So is anything new or different that seems to be creating additional angst in the teen years?
Yes, we have to consider the impact of social media and nonstop technical connection on the development of a teen’s mental health. Past generations were not subject to 24/7 scrutiny of their lives and connectedness. Today, every moment of a teen’s life can be recorded, documented and up for public display. This constant connection, with no down time, leads to a type of angst new to this generation.
With teens as high users of technology, there are more opportunities to be cyberbullied and harassed. This alone can lead to depression, anxiety and in some cases, suicide.
The constant connection also brings comparison and competition front and center. And it doesn’t stop. Teens can be reminded every moment of the day that they don’t measure up and can’t compete in terms of likes, friends and popularity-all important during this phase of development.
In addition, exercise has been a protective factor when it comes to mental health. More screen time means less exercise. Sitting and staring at screens lessens movement which helps relieve stress.
Finally, many teens, will tell you that they are socially connected on media but real, authentic, in-person relationships are not as easy to find. When stress hits, they need someone in person to talk to, but don’t know who that person might be. And when they finally do identify someone to talk to and bring up their issues, they are often told they are simply experiencing normal teenage angst. While this may be true, the coddling and helicopter parenting they have experienced has left these teens less resilient in dealing with typical stress.
So here is how you help. There is no substitute for real time, real life relationships. Understand the angst of a teen with social media but also help them set limits, monitor their use and find their identity in Christ.