Technologies Influence on Teens Mental Health
I’m very proud of the fact that my 17yr old daughter wrote this, so naturally, I had to post it. Plus, the fact is that she brings up some very relevant points in our era. She is not a fan of social media as a whole and thinks that the whole cell phone craze has gotten way out of hand in general especially for younger kids. Observing, as a little kid of around 7 years almost crashed into her as he was fixated on his phone, made her ponder the topic of this article. If young children are handed phones so early in life, how will this affect them as Pre-teens years later? Many children are given electronics as ‘babysitters’ nowadays in place of authentic human interaction and the results can have some devastating effects by the time they reach adolescence. Of course, we as parents have an opportunity to set a good example, as well as limits but the younger kids, are when starting the better. Here are 5 mental disorders excessive use of technology your pre-teen can be prone to.
By Charlotte Standley
If your child owns a smartphone under the age of 13, it is far from abnormal in today’s society. Nearly 1 in 10 children own a cellphone by the age of 6, and this ratio is quickly evening out. But as this amount of children using technology and social media climbs up the ladder, so do the number of teenagers with *mental disorders.
The topic is on the rise that allowing pre-teens to own cell phones is dangerous. This is true to an extent as many of those who say that smartphones are a threat to children are referring to a child’s current and future intellectual development.
When tracking intellectual development, Piaget’s stages of development often allude. One of Piaget’s stages mentions the preoperational phase, which lasts until about age 7, where memory and imagination develop and children become capable of thinking of things symbolically. The next stage is called the concrete operational phase where children from ages 7 to 11 develop logic and reasoning.
To put this into context, a child who is raised with a smartphone often in their hands will likely become programmed to it unless they are restricted. This means that the child is precariously learning to rely on the internet for information and problem solving since they are in the stage of developing their reasoning skills. Additionally, a child is prone to become psychologically addicted to the phone if the device has been their best friend since the age where they developed the ability to think symbolically.
These habits and tendencies have the potential to escalate to where they become irreversible issues.
Here Are The Mental Disorders Your Pre Teen May Be Prone To
This disorder is self-explanatory in the title, and very serious. Antisocial Personality Disorder sometimes referred to as sociopathy, is a mental condition in which a person consistently demonstrates no regard for ethics and ignores the rights and feelings of others.
If your child is reared with multiple sources of technology and little social time to develop communication skills, they may be at risk to develop antisocial tendencies or in serious cases, complete misanthropy. For instance, technology grants the ability to efficiently communicate with anybody at any place. The person sending out messages could even be completely anonymous if they wanted to.
Because of the screen and distance blocking any emotional connection or bonding that could happen, a child can easily see this as the norm and develop tendencies to be rude, unempathetic, and stubborn.
2. Separation Anxiety Disorder
This disorder is the plague in teens nowadays, and it may be thanks to technology they were exposed to. Separation Anxiety Disorder is a disorder in which the individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment.
Speaking of cell phone separation anxiety, there is actually a fictional disorder called ‘nomophobia’ which is the true fear of being separated from your cell phone!
Kashfia Nehrin Rahman, a high school science student from South Dakota, did a study and found that teens are vulnerable to stress and anxiety when they’re separated from their smartphones.
Regarding the internet, children often become huge fans of the most recent trending celebrities or popular social media stars. Whether the star is famous for fashion, music, comedy, or any other niche, a pre-teen will always have tendencies to look for role models and a desire to follow their lead online.
Like separating a puppy from its toy, a child can become extremely desperate and anxious whenever they are separated from their phone and will even be likely to become hysterical and have an emotional outburst. This is because of the emotional bond they have formed with their phone, or the feeling of separation from a role model they have online. Hence, ‘nomophobia’.
Noticeable Symptoms May Include:
- Inability to focus without certain comforts
- Jealousy and complaining
- Verbal apprehension
3. Depressive Disorder
This disorder is one of the most serious and stressful disorders for a parent with a teen who has it. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
The Social Media your child has access to permits them to see things that a parent may not be aware of. Consistent exposure to Instagram and Snapchat accounts where others brag about their lives, their looks, their money, and their happy social lives whether fictitious or not can bring about feelings of inadequacy and resentment.
These accounts post pictures or quotes that always seem so joyful and perfect where only the best things are happening in someone’s lives. Especially celebrities which many teens view as having ideal lives such as the Kardashians and so many other Instagram influencers we see.
This greatly skewed and false view of the reality may greatly damage the self-esteem of your child as they develop the habit of comparing their lives, mood, popularity, and certainly their looks to others.
Noticeable Symptoms May Include:
- Long showers/baths
- Sleeping for longer hours
- Reluctancy for activities
- Lower calorie intake
- Nonverbal Cues
4. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder is becoming just as common in teens as it is for adults. It is a mental condition marked by alternating periods of elation and depression. Teens are known to have mood fluctuations due to all the hormones they produce, but a true bipolar condition displays more maniac-like extreme symptoms.
To the young human brain, a cell phone with its functions that make life easier and more entertaining is interpreted as a reward. These ‘pings’ of ‘likes’ and heart emojis create a rush of dopamine and serotonin (feel-good hormones) that make the child feel happy, literally causing a drug-like addiction to occur.
As time goes on this may become the norm for a child. The functions they look at through their technology can become old to them, and they will search for more and more ‘hits’ for recreating that feeling.
This can lead to disappointment and a sense of let down if not achieved. Because of this, there is an even greater chemical imbalance in their brain that can cause severe temper tantrums and depression or anger fluctuations.
Some say a person can become addicted to anything! Most commonly eating, drugs, exercise, and yes, cellphones and social media can be highly addictive. Addiction is the condition of being physically or psychologically dependent on a particular substance, thing, or activity.
Preteens are especially susceptible to addiction as they can be prone to forming bad habits at an early age. As well as adults, pre-teens may prefer to stay in their comfort zone despite their curiosity. As mentioned, the same repeated tendencies in the same environment can form habits and possibly addiction.
It is not hard to assume that many pre-teens who own a cellphone at a young age could develop an addiction to their cell phone by the time they are teenagers. Not only will those flashy lights and fun features deter them from healthier options, but preteens who use social media can be influenced to mimic the actions of popular figures who glamorize their own products. Drug or even precocious sexual curiosity can develop at a younger age and lead to early addiction.
What is the solution in a world saturated with technology?
Remember, pre-teens often only know what they’re taught. And they learn best by example. If they see you on your phone more often than interacting with them or others, more than likely they will do the same.
Adopting behaviors for how and when to use technology is better sooner than later and is more effective than punishing them if they already misuse or overuse their devices. Limiting and having set times for your pre teen’s technology use is one of the best methods to prevent misuse.
Just like any other item, it is effective to make your child aware of the potential dangers of it, the importance of it, the best reasons to use it and set the best example yourself.
*Disclaimer – The contents in this blog should not be construed as medical advice it is purely for the sake of informational and entertainment purposes. Contact your medical doctor for a professional opinion.