How Technology Effects the Brain and Teens

More and more, teens are developing anxiety and depression around technology and social media sites.  They are afraid to disconnect.  “What if someone posts something bad about me?”

In an age where teens are trying to identify who they are and are trying on different roles, teens are able to create an image for themselves online they feel they need to uphold.  If they don’t continue to post pictures of themselves partying, then who will others think they are?

Kids are presenting with worry when someone doesn’t get back to them with a text right away.  “Are they mad at me?  Did I say something wrong?”  Teens reread what they wrote over and over and then go over it with another friend.  It can become tortuous.

Technology can dictate their moods.  If they get positive feedback from their peers, it is a good day.  If someone posts something remotely negative, it can ruin it.  It then impacts the relationships around them.  Fights with siblings and parents ensue.

The article featured  in July 16, 2012 edition of Newsweek titled “iCrazy: Panic. Depression. Psychosis. How Connection Addiction is Rewiring Our Brains” discussed just how bad things are getting for many in the digital age including an increase in people suffering from anxiety, depression, psychotic episodes, PTSD, and ADHD.   It also noted how even minimal time online is impacting how our brain works.

Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. addresses further signs and symptoms in her article Electronic Screen Syndrome: An Unrecognized Disorder?  Electronic Screen Syndrome and the rise of mental disorders in children.  She looks at how stress from “screen time” impacts our nervous system which then leads to an inability to regulate and tolerate stress and then manifests in a variety of symptoms, including irritability, poor grades, and insomnia to name a few.

If you have a teen consumed by media, it may be time to consider how to intervene.  With teens, providing them information about how media is affecting their brain and mood could be an avenue when it seems impossible to pry that screen from their fingertips.  Leave an article on the kitchen table.  Listen to a podcast on your way to the store.  Set limits around when media is not to be used, like at mealtimes or when having company.

I know it is tough to figure out what to do with teens.  Just remember, setting an example and giving them the power to make their own choices, whether we agree or disagree is all part of developing.  We can guide them through with information and setting healthy limits.More and more, I see teens coming to my office with anxiety and depression around technology and social media sites.  They are afraid to disconnect.  “What if someone posts something bad about me?”

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