According to the real smart science people, our generation is on the verge of a mental-health crisis. If we’re honest, we can all sense it, people, and especially girls, are struggling. A recent study by Jean M Twenge published in
The Atlantic really gave us something to think about. Its a long read, so here’s the headlines:
When it comes to teenagers, trends in relation to the characteristics of generations tend to move gradually, in gentle peaks and troughs. In 2012, there was a major shift in behaviours and emotional states, gentle waves in the data became “steep mountains and sheer cliffs”, which hadn’t been seen since the 1930’s.
This is the first generation that grew up with phones in their hands and ready access to the internet and social media, with 3 out of every 4 american teens currently owning an iphone.
Its not all bad, and according to the article, teens are more physically safe than ever before, because they don’t go out as much, don’t drive as recklessly and are less likely to drink.
On the other hand though, psychologically, rates of depression have risen hugely since 2011, around the time that the number of people owning smartphones surpassed 50%.
Today’s teenagers are less likely to date, they just chat online for a bit, and then hook up. 56 %of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; compared to about 85 percent in previous generations. Virginity is generally lost a year later, and teen birth rates are on the decrease.
We are working in paid jobs a lot less than ever before, and spend less time on homework. What are we doing with our time? Twenge says that we are on our phones, alone and often distressed.
We are alone a lot of the time, as we’re experts at tuning out our families at home. We are less bothered with going to meet our friends in person, instead just sitting alone in our rooms, chatting to them online. The number of teens who hang out with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; with the decline getting steeper each year.
Studies are very very clear, the more time we spend online, the unhappier we are, and the more time we spend on non-screen activities, the happier we are. There are no exceptions to this rule. Teens’ feelings of loneliness and depression spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.
These trends are more pronounced among girls. Girls spend more time on social media, and feel more excluded when they see their friends having fun. They also rely more on social media for validation, its all about the likes and those likes define how we feel about ourselves.
While depression amongst US boys increased by 21% between 2012 and 2015, the percentage amongst girls increased by 50%, more than double the amount. The rise in suicide was more pronounced for girls too.
Internet corporations are preying on the vulnerability of young women online. A recently leaked Facebook document indicated that the company had been telling advertisers that they are able to determine when teens’ emotional state were low, and even to pinpoint “moments when young people need a confidence boost.”
Many of us sleep with our phones beside our beds, and check it just before sleep and as soon as we wake. Its hardly surprising then, that we get less sleep than ever before. Teens are advised to get nine hours a night, most sleep for less than seven. 57% more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. Sleep deprivation leads to compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure. It also affects mood, and makes us more prone to depression and anxiety.
Its not realistic to expect anyone to live in this world gadget or internet free. Its where the world is going, and therefore its where professions, relationships, study, planning and basic human functions will exists in the future. But we can take a minute each day to check in with ourselves and ask a couple of questions.
How do I feel right now? Am I anxious or really, genuinely content?
Am I tired? Did I just put off peeing for another 30 minutes because I just couldn’t muster the energy to get up?
When was the last time I made eye contact with another human and laughed out loud?
When was the last time I hugged someone (in person, not by sending an emoji).
When was I last outside in the fresh air? When was the last time my heart rate increased, because I ran, jumped, danced?
If the answer to these questions are a little worrying, why not do a 2-3 day screen detox. Whats the worst that could happen?