47 0 0 0 13 6. Nina Langton had no right suicide in children and teenagers be depressed. At least, that’s how she saw it.
She had a great group of friends, lived in a prosperous neighborhood, and was close with her parents. Like most 16-year-olds at her Connecticut high school, Nina spent much of her free time on her smartphone. Later, after her attempted suicide and during her stay at a rehabilitation facility, Nina and her therapist identified body image insecurity as the foundation of her woe. She’d stay up late in her bedroom, looking at social media on her phone, and poor sleep—coupled with an eating disorder—gradually snowballed until suicide felt like her only option. Nina’s mom, Christine Langton, has a degree in public health and works at a children’s hospital. Nina was funny, athletic, smart, personable . Nina Langton, 17, at her dormitory in Mass.
In hindsight, Langton says she wishes she had done more to moderate her daughter’s smartphone use. I just wasn’t thinking about the impact of the phone on her self-esteem or self-image until after everything happened. But the inescapability of today’s mobile devices—coupled with the personal allure of social media—seems to separate smartphones from older screen-based media. The latest statistics on teen mental health underscore the urgency of this debate. Department of Health and Human Services.
Overall, kids in the study who spent low amounts of time engaged in in-person social interaction, but high amounts of time on social media, were the most likely to be depressed. Twenge is quick to acknowledge that her research does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship exists between smartphones and depression. But that doesn’t answer the question of what caused this sudden upswing in teen depression and suicide. Some experts have pointed to the aftermath of the Great Recession, or rising student workloads, as possible non-device explanations for young people’s recent struggles.
Others agree it’s time to approach adolescent device use with greater caution. Frances Jensen, chair of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. To understand how device use may be affecting a young person’s mental health, it’s important to recognize the complex changes occurring in an adolescent’s still-developing brain. For one thing, that brain is incredibly plastic and able to adapt—that is, physically change—in response to novel activities or environmental cues, says UPenn’s Jensen, who is the author of The Teenage Brain. More research has associated lower ACC volumes with depression and addiction disorders.