Doing Life Together

blogger-336371_1920Teen mental health is of great concern today. Smartphones and social media have shaped a generation in ways we are just beginning to understand. While we may see a positive benefit like a decline in sexual activity among teens because device use has led to less dating and texting verses real time relationships, there are down sides as well. Device use has also led to less independence (e.g., delay in getting a driver’s license) and a serious decline in teen employment. Jobs are available, but putting off adult responsibility seems to be the trend. You can live your early life on your phone. No need to push yourself out into the real world of people.

For many teens and young adults, leisure time is not spent at the skating rink, in after school clubs or working a part-time job. Virtual spaces, apps and social media have replaced hang out time with friends. But time spent virtual connecting is also disappointing when it comes to developing real face-to-face friendships. The end result is often distress and unhappiness. And that should concern every parent.

There is a reason Steve Jobs limited his kids use of devices. The fall out of too much virtual living is unhappiness, affecting teen mental health. The more time spent on screens, the more unhappy a person becomes. The proverbial “Put down your phone, get off screens and spend time with people,” just may be the intervention needed to awaken some out of their depression and loneliness.

Social media is not a cure for loneliness. The relentless documenting of social events can leave a teen feeling left out and uninvolved. And when the documented event doesn’t get LIKES or comments, the lack of affirmation can feel devastating. Add to this the prevalence of cyberbullying and virtual relationships become a source of negativity.

So while we may be accustomed to sleeping with our phones, being on them in the middle of family time and retreating to our private spaces to settle in texting or jump on social media, the end result is disappointing–loneliness, depression and unhappiness. The blue light of the cell phone in bed is also causing sleep deprivation, leading to moodiness and poor performance.

Thus, as simply as it sounds, if you want to improve your teen or young adult’s mental health, convince them that limited time on their devices will improve their mood and connection with people. Help them understand that life lived on a device will create disappointment and unhappiness. The end result is not real connection, but loneliness. Put down the device to improve teen mental health! This is a free and easy prescription, but one that could make a major impact.