Study: Digital media harms teen health


KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It seems teenagers and their smartphones are virtually inseparable. While that technology puts them in touch with the cyber world, a new study shows it also puts many teens at harm.
The study published by the American Psychological Association looked at more than 200,000 American adolescents. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it concludes mental health issues have dramatically increased among teenagers in the last decade.

“You sort of know it from seeing the kids and then finally somebody took it and put it into context,” said Pediatric Associates of Kingston Pediatrician Jeffery Kile, MD. He is not surprised by what happens when you put the internet in kids’ hands. 

A study from 2005 to 2017 shows the 12-to-17 year old crowd had a more than 50 percent increase in symptoms of depression. That study suggests it’s more than coincidence digital media use is also on the rise. “There’s been a spike in anxiety and depression in teenage kids specifically when you look at generations of those that started with using social media versus generations prior before they had social media. So that’s pretty strong evidence,” said Dr. Kile.

It’s more than young people getting caught up in online negativity or cyberbullying. A major takeaway from the study shows young people are being deprived of healthy, interpersonal relationships because they’re too busy texting. Dr. Kile said, “It decreases our human, social interaction with each other so kids could start to have problems really if they utilize media all the time.”

More research is needed to understand exactly how digital communication impacts mood disorders and thoughts of self-harm. In the meantime, Dr. Kile says, parents should have the conversation with their kids about their digital media use. “Sort of ask them what they like to utilize on social media. Is it YouTube, is it Snapchat, is it Instagram and why they like to use those things.”

Dr. Kile also says it’s important for parents to model good, social media behavior and use techniques recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help protect their children in the digital age.

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