Smartphones, Social Media and Teens: Benefits, Risks and Radiation?

Teens, across the nation and around the world, will be heading back to school soon. While teens were “relaxing” over the summer, researchers were doing their due diligence by continuing to explore the impact smartphones and social media have on teens.  Let’s take a look at what we know and explore some new information that might be helpful to teens, parents and educators.

What we’ve known for a while is that smartphones and social media have been linked to anxiety, depression, stress, lack of sleep, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts found in teens.  Teen anxiety and depression treatment centers have risen up in large numbers.  Longer hours on social media have been found to increase a teen’s risk of cyberbullying, lower self-esteem and may cause loss of valuable friend, family, and personal time.

While social media has benefits such as instant and often meaningful communication with family and peers, being constantly on has become a social media trap for many teens.  By increasing the time spent on measuring and managing their social media success on sites like Instagram and Snapchat, experts fear overuse may be adding risks to teen’s mental health.  Being constantly on, plugged in 24/7 – many teens never get a break.

Statistically, girls who spend several hours on their smartphones and social media each day tend to develop more social and emotional problems than boys.  Teen girls spend more time cultivating their online identity, comparing themselves to their peers and paying more attention to “likes.”  Teen boys tend to spend more time gaming and less time worrying about online identity.

Recently it was noted that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone.

We know that teens who are constantly on, keeping up with the latest apps, gaming, spending longer hours on social media, and wondering and worrying about how they measure up to their peers run the risk of higher than normal academic challenges and mental health issues.

Adult awareness to the many tactics used to get teens (and others) hooked to social media is the first step toward understanding and breaking the “constantly on” cycle.  Adults have, at their fingertips, bundles of research and studies as to the “why and how” teenagers get hooked, become addicted to social networking, and, as a consequence, have difficulty putting their smartphone and other devices aside.

The Latest…

When it comes to smartphones, social media and teens, it now appears there is more to consider.  In a recent article entitled, “Smartphones are killing teenagers’ memories, study says” by Chris Ciaccia, it was suggested and supported by the study referred to in the title, that radiation from smartphones is negatively impacting teenagers’ memories, leaving them with short-term memory loss. Perhaps now that more people are incorporating more organic living into so many aspects of their lives, they might also consider putting down their technology.

Reference:

https://www.swisstph.ch/en/news/news-detail/news/mobile-phone-radiation-may-affect-memory-performance-in-adolescents/

Digital Addiction: Social Networking ~ A 24/7 Distraction

Addiction defined is the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.

 In a recent article in the Boston Herald stating, “What began as a method of emergency contact has evolved into a 24/7 distraction, spurring what many would classify as a digital addiction for adults and teens alike,” underscores the need for parents, educators and entire communities to understand the implications for this and future generations. (“Teenagers, adults dangerously addicted to cellphones, says study,”by Lindsay Kalter, Monday, May 7. 2018)

Digital addiction begins in early childhood years when parents first put devices in kid’s hands to soothe or distract them.  Small children are known to throw tantrums or become depressed and anxious when devices are withheld.  We now know that what begins as an addiction early in life, can manifest itself into uncontrollable anger, anxiety, eating disorders and even suicide for teens, failing grades, shorter attention spans, distracted driving, conversations with complete strangers, likes for photos from thousands of people we don’t know, sleep loss, and deficient brain development.

A former Facebook VP, Chamath Palihapitiya, has said publicly that social media is destroying society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops.’  He feels guilt over his role in promoting social networking in a way that it has eroded “the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”  He admits he and others knew something bad could happen with the development of the FB platform.  He also admits that he seldom uses social networks and does not allow his children to use them at all.

Questions parents and teachers should be asking:  How does social networking impact the students in your school or at home?  What, if any, steps have been taken to decrease the amount of time students are on their cell phones during school hours or at home?