Clutched in the hand of nearly every teen is a smartphone, buzzing and beeping and blinking with social media notifications. But is social media and the omnipresence of digital interactions really the cause of all this anxiety? Recent studies have noted a significant uptick in depression and suicidal thoughts over the past several years for teens, especially those who spend multiple hours a day using screens, and especially girls. But many of the pressures teenagers feel from social media are actually consistent with developmentally normal concerns around social standing and self-expression. Social media can certainly exacerbate these anxieties, but for parents to truly help their children cope, they should avoid making a blanket condemnation. Instead, parents should tailor their approach to the individual, learning where a particular child's stressors lie and how that child can best gain control of this alluring, powerful way to connect with peers. Many of the pressures teenagers feel from social media are actually consistent with developmentally normal concerns around social standing and self-expression. Many experts have described a rise in sleeplessness, loneliness, worry, and dependence among teenagers — a rise that coincides with the release of the first iPhone 10 years ago. One study found that 48 percent of teens who spend five hours per day on an electronic device have at least one suicide risk factor, compared to 33 percent of teens who spend two hours a day on an electronic device.
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