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Media, Technology, and Adolescent Mental Health

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of teen smartphone owners say they’ve been woken up by their phones during the night by a call, text or notification. 

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of all teens agree that using social media often distracts them when they should be doing homework. 

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72 % of teens believe that tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on their devices. 

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The access to smart phones is fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States.

The Pew Research Center’s 2018 survey of U.S. teens determined that one in six teenagers have experienced at least one of six different forms of abusive behavior online:

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Having their activities and whereabouts tracked by someone other than a parent



Spreading false rumors

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Someone making physical threats

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Receiving unsolicited explicit images

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Having explicit images of them shared without their consent

The increase of technology has resulted in a new disorder titled social media anxiety disorder, as reported by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

The condition is similar to social and other anxiety disorders, which the ADAA states are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S.


The symptoms of social media anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Stopping to check social media in the middle of a conversation

  • Spending more than six hours each day using social media

  • Lying about the amount of time spent on social media

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Failing in attempts to cut back on social media use

  • Neglecting or losing interest in school, work and favorite activities

  • Experiencing severe nervousness, anxiety or withdrawal symptoms when not able to check social media​

  • Having an overwhelming desire to share on social media feeds

Some experts warn smartphones can negatively impact tweens' and teens' mental health, including:

  • Depression

  • Social anxiety

  • Low self-esteem

  • Sleep issues

  • Even suicide


Smartphone use can also make students susceptible to:

  • Online bullying

  • Online predators

  • Screen time addiction

  • Lack of motivation for offline activities

Research supports the need to address children's mobile device usage and screen time 

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than two hours of entertainment screen time per day for children and discourages the use of any screen media by children under two years of age.


Nearly every child under 8 in America (98 percent) has access to a mobile device at home, a rapid rise from just over half in 2011.


The average amount of time kids under 8 spend with mobile devices each day has tripled twice since 2011. Teenagers use an average of nine hours of media per day, and tweens use an average of six.


Half of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices, and the majority of parents (60 percent) feel their kids are addicted.


Heavy users are 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy; twenty-seven percent more likely to be depressed; and 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide.

Sources: Common Sense Media and Pew Research Center


  • In a study done by Parents Together 48% of parents stated their kids are currently spending more than six hours per day online – a nearly 500% increase from before the crisis. With research showing detrimental impacts of excessive screen time on children’s health, 85% of parents are concerned with their children’s usage of apps, games, and social media platforms.

  • Many survey respondents told stories about the harms their children have encountered online during social isolation, ranging from bullying to sexual predation.

  • A full 85% of parents think Congress should include protections for kids online like cracking down on sexual predators or putting limits on deceptive advertising in legislation to address the current crisis. More than 93% think the primary law protecting kids’ privacy online, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, should be expanded to include kids aged 13-17, who currently aren’t protected by the law.


    Source: Parents conducted survey on Tech during COVID-19

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