More teens and young adults — particularly girls and young women — are reporting being depressed and anxious, compared with comparable numbers from the mid-2000s. Suicides are up too in that time period, most noticeably among girls ages 10 to 14.
Amy Orben, the lead author of each paper and a psychologist at Oxford University, says the team found that the actual negative relationship between teens’ mental health and technology use is tiny.
“A teenagers’ technology use can only explain less than 1% of variation in well-being,” Orben says. “It’s so small that it’s surpassed by whether a teenager wears glasses to school,” or rides a bicycle, or eats potatoes — all comparisons made by Orben and her Oxford co-author Andrew K. Przybylski.
The explanation that Keyes finds most compelling is that there is a “bidirectional” relationship among teens, screens and mental health. In other words, as argued in this paper by Candice Odgers in the journal Nature, teens who are already struggling may be more drawn to screens and more likely to form unhealthy relationships with media, for example by seeking out information on self-harm or encountering cyberbullies. The time they spend online might in turn make them feel worse.
Twenge agrees with the general idea that “social media invites comparisons and anxiety.”
Read the whole story: NPR