There's no doubt that many preteens, teens, and young adults are under an enormous amount of stress as they work to be so many versions of their best selves — whether that be in school or with friends and family. While drive and competitiveness can be and often are positive traits, such pressure can be extraordinarily dangerous, too. For proof, consider the fact that girls are self-harming now more than ever before, according to a recent study — and experts believe that dramatically increased smartphone use in recent years could explain why.
That these ever-present devices could, indeed, be the culprits causing girls' increasing self-harming tendencies has not been confirmed, but the steep increase in their ER visits for that reason coincides with more widespread access to smartphones. In analyzing the reasons young people ended up in emergency rooms nationwide between 2001 and 2015, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control uncovered some striking results.
According to the resulting letter published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the rate at which girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were treated in ERs for self-inflicted injuries skyrocketed 18.8 percent each year from 2009 and to 2015. The rate had been relatively stable before that.
There are a few reasons that this could be the case. The Washington Post reported that some researchers (though not necessarily those involved in collecting the CDC data) believe that financial pressures could contribute to the sad uptick. But the more likely factor appears to be screen times spent on smartphones, which more than 50 percent of Americans owned by the end of 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. And by the time that 2015 was about to draw to a close the vast majority of American teenagers — 73 percent — had access to a smartphone.
It turns out that that could actually be less-than-stellar news for those uber-connected teens, especially the girls. Research has linked smartphone use with anxiety, depression, and increased stress. And young people who spend more time with their eyes glued to these devices could be in trouble for just that very reason. The Post reported that five or more hours a day on a smartphone means that a person will be 71 percent more likely to exhibit at least one suicide risk factor, such as depression, than someone whose online smartphone exposure is limited to just one hour.
A November 2016 study led by Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Ramin Mojtabai concluded that texting and social media apps capture girls' interest and time more than they do for boys, The Los Angeles Times reported. As a result cyberbullying among girls is on the rise, and such use of smartphones could be leading to a depressed mood.
So, it's clear that smartphone use — one of the most pervasive and taken-for-granted facts of modern life — truly could be very bad news for anyone and everyone who falls under its addictive spell. It just goes to show that getting outside and riding a bike, having face-to-face interactions with friends and family members, and even reading a book or watching a movie without checking that phone every five seconds can do a world a good for a person's mental health.
Because one thing's for sure: Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and every other app that occupies our time will surely still be there when you're ready to get back to them. And taking time away could make the time spent using them healthier and more productive.
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