According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, more than one in seven teens experience depression each year. How can parents take preventive measures to help their teens combat depression? According to a recent article published by JAMA Pediatrics, they should take into account how much time their teen spends in front of digital screens (ie, screen time).
Using an annual survey, researchers performed a study that assessed connections between screen time and depression over the course of four years for 3,826 adolescents. They broke down screen time into four categories: social media, television, computers and video games.
The study found that for every increased hour spent on social media, adolescents showed a sizeable increase in depressive symptoms, with similar findings for television and computer use. Researchers believe this is due to the social comparison that occurs when teens view the lives of others as being better. Additionally, depressive symptoms can be reinforced as teens seek out and select content that is consistent with their feelings or state of mind. This may be especially important for screen time that features algorithm-based content that makes recommendations based on interests or previous search behavior.
The following signs may help you determine if your teen is depressed:
- Changes in sleeping patterns, such as sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changes in eating patterns, causing weight loss or gain
- Decreased interest in his or her favorite activities or hobbies
- Decline in school performance
- Frequent sadness
- Constant fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem or self-confidence
- Increased anger or irritability
- Mentions of suicide
If you suspect your teen may be suffering from depression, contact his or her pediatrician to determine the best treatment options.
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