Depression diagnoses among teens have risen more than 50 percent in the last decade. Some of this can be attributed to the increasing social acceptance of counseling and self-care, but there looms another reason that comes with the changing of the times. Technology has become so much more common and inescapable that teenagers especially are at risk for all the negative effects of technology use—depression not being the least of these.
The more time teenagers spend on their phones, the more depressed they get. Increased smart phone usage also triggers sleep deprivation, which plays into the issue of depression. Lack of sleep has been linked to mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. Yet, today’s young people are spending more and more time in front of screens. How can we reasonably limit screen time and promote healthy habits?
Getting Off the Phone
Research shows that the less time kids spend on their phones, the happier they are. Here are just several ways you can encourage your teenagers to limit screen time:
- Model healthy habits early on: Even if you don’t have teenagers yet, your kids are probably interested in technology. Practice limiting your own screen time, finding other hobbies, getting together with friends and family, and being outside. And, of course, be straightforward. Talk to your kids about the pros and cons of technology to prepare them for what lies ahead. If you already have teenagers, it’s never too late to start setting an example.
- Prioritize family time: Teenagers have busy schedules (and so do you!), but set aside some time to just be with family. It could be once a week or once a month; whatever it is, get it scheduled. If it’s necessary, you can make a “no phones” rule for your family time.
- Set boundaries: Don’t be afraid to set “no phone” times if you feel the need to. Meals, bedtime, and social events are all common “no phone” periods for many families.
- Encourage outdoor time: In a previous post, we explained how people grow up happier when they are surrounded by nature. This is a habit you will want to start as early as possible with your children. Getting fresh air and gaining endorphins from physical activity can change moods, prevent illnesses, and stimulate brain activity.
- Be aware of social drama: Sometimes, teenagers will sink into their phones or other technology when something is lacking in their social lives. This then puts them at a higher risk for cyberbullying, which can also lead to severe depression.
Technology is a gift, but it can also be a curse. Depression does not have to be a normal part of teenage existence. Understand the risks and how to protect the teens in your life. If you need help treating depression holistically, contact our office today.