Teen Depression Part Three – The Role of Technology - ROWI

Teen Depression Part Three – The Role of Technology

  • Posted by ROWI
  • On August 17, 2018


While screens are stealing our teens’ attention, they’re also taking away their joy.  Social media and technology use are now directly linked to the increase in depression for teens.  The statistics for teen depression and suicide began rising in 2012.  At the very same time, teen’s access to smartphones also rose.  Jean Twenge, Psychology Professor at U.C.S.D. and author of iGen explains that this is no coincidence.

Twenge cites two data sets to reveal that time spent online is linked to mental health issues. A study of more than 500,000 adolescents nationwide found that teens who spent three or more hours on their phones or other electronic devices were 34% more likely to suffer from at least one depressive episode.  This includes feeling hopeless to seriously considering suicide.  That number jumped to 48 percent for teens online five or more hours a day.

A 15-year-old high school sophomore with her whole life ahead of her recently admitted to making a suicide plan.  She confessed her greatest distress came from instagram.  For many teens, social media pages become an extension of their self-worth.  A popularity report card that is always being graded, without ever passing.  With a brain that isn’t fully developed, teens do not have the capacity to self-regulate and unplug.  It is literally affecting the wiring of their brains.  Adults are also affected by the same re-wiring.  That is why it is so important for parents to put healthy guidelines, practices and modeling in place to help their teens.

While your kids most likely will be resistant, call a family meeting about your social media use.  Make sure the grown-ups are a part of this discussion about screen time and balance.  Many teens are equally discouraged that their parents are distracted by their phones.  True connection and feeling understood is the greatest weapon against depression.   As parents you can prevent and help heal your child’s hopelessness by whole-heartedly engaging with them.

Let’s look at ways to limit screen time.  This should not be delivered as a punishment or consequence for the teen, but as a practice of finding balance for the whole family.

  • Set up tech time as a break after other work, chores or outside activities take place. So that tech time doesn’t come first, and it doesn’t happen automatically.
  • Make up a technology contract. Include everyone, even parents.  This will look different for every family.  But put it in writing.  You can include specific times of day and the length of time.
  • Put restriction controls on your teen’s devices.

A couple of monitoring sites are K9 Web Protection or Family Cyber Alert.

  • Have consequences in place for violations of the technology rules. This will be in the contract ahead of time so that there are no surprises.  Have everyone sign the contract.
  • Collect phones at bedtime so there isn’t a temptation.

The climate of our fast-paced world has led to more convenient ways of communicating and yet in the midst of all these advancements we are a society that is forgetting how to truly talk with each other.  This generation is growing up less prepared to handle real world interactions with future instructors, bosses and relationships.  But you can shift that tide in your own home.  Pay attention to and limit how often everyone is retreating to their own spaces.  Create time to be together, technology free.  You may find this opens up your teen to share more of what’s going on in their world.   If it’s too difficult to handle the impact of technology addiction with your teen ROWI is here to help.  Contact us at (805) 356-3369 or email us at info@rowiteen.com.


Up next in our series on teen depression we are going to look at how a parent’s use of technology can impact their teen. Your attention is more important in their lives than you realize.