A Community Conversation on Teen Mental Health

Posted by Joni Schwager on April 25, 2019

According to a recent report released by the American Psychological Association, mental health issues among young adults have risen significantly over the last decade and social media may be one reason why.

The research shows a sharp increase in negative psychological symptoms for young adults born in 1995 or later, otherwise known as iGen. The spike in symptoms occurred in 2011, concurrent with the timing of social media in our lives.

The report goes on to show that social media use among young adults is associated with increased symptoms of social anxiety, social isolation, sleep deprivation and feelings of loneliness. Young adults report facing the challenges of bullying, rumor spreading, lack of in-person contact, unrealistic views of others’ lives (known as FOMO – fear of missing out), addictive distraction and peer pressure through social media and mobile technology.

On the plus side, the same research shows that eight-in-ten teens, ages 13 to 17, say social media makes them feel more connected, civic minded and exposes them to greater diversity. These positive aspects combined with the negative findings only speak more loudly to the need for education and guidance of teens through these turbulent digital waters.

On Sunday, April 28, JCC Camps and the Center for Loving Kindness will be hosting a community “town hall” on teen mental health in Katz Auditorium at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill as a part of a larger inclusion initiative sponsored by the Staunton Farm Foundation. The goal is to raise community awareness about the intersection of teen mental health and mobile technology/social media. Jean Twenge, a noted psychology professor and author of “IGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” will lead the conversation.

While the negative effects of social media on teens are serious, there is no way for parents to keep their teens offline forever. Instead, it is important for parents to help their children prepare for a life in the digital world.  Parents need to teach children how to manage their screen time, what can (and can’t) be posted online, the consequences of making mistakes on social media, and how to value offline activities over negative social media habits.

It is our hope to help our community understand the trends of teen social media use and how to help young adults build a positive digital footprint.

Joni Schwager is Executive Director, Staunton Farm Foundation

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