Loneliness dramatically increasing among teenagers who use smartphones or the Internet too much

A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescence finds that “feelings of loneliness among teenagers rose sharply between 2012 and 2018” in almost every country studied countries. The loneliness was strongly correlated with “[increases] in smartphone and Internet use.”

On my new TV show, “Ask Dr. Walt” on LiftableTV, I devoted an entire show to the topic, “Avoid Loneliness Like the Plague.” I consider healthy relationships one of the top ten essentials of highly healthy people.

The federal Health Resources & Services Administration uses the term “loneliness epidemic” and cites research showing loneliness as “more dangerous than obesity and as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Parenting has never been easy. But the widespread adoption of smartphones and the rise of social media has introduced a new wrinkle to the challenges of parenthood. In fact, among parents in the U.S. who have at least one child under age eighteen at home, one study found that sixty-six percent say that parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago, with many in this group citing technology as a reason why.

Parents overall are also apprehensive about the long-term effects of smartphones and the Internet on their child’s development. Seventy-one percent believe the widespread use of smartphones and the Internet by young children might potentially result in more harm than benefits.

Parents’ fears are well-founded. A Middlesex University study found that fifty-three percent of 11-16-year-olds had seen explicit material online. Of these, ninety-four percent saw it before the age of fourteen. Tellingly, one-third of those surveyed first saw pornography using a mobile phone. Perhaps even more worryingly, one in eight young people have been bullied on social media.

Using data collected between 2010 and 2015 from more than 500,000 adolescents nationwide, another study found kids who spent three hours or more a day on smartphones or other electronic devices were thirty-four percent more likely to suffer at least one suicide-related outcome such as feeling hopeless or seriously considering suicide than kids who used devices two hours a day or less. Among kids who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, almost half had at least one suicide-related outcome.

Overall, kids in the study who spent low amounts of time engaged in in-person social interaction, but high amounts of time on social media, were the most likely to be depressed.

Less time on the Internet and smartphone leaves more time for person-to-person social interaction with good friends and exercise, both of which are highly healthy for our children.

Parents, educate yourself on ways to protect your children and your family from the potential downsides of too much use of the Internet and smartphones. It’s not likely that you’ll regret doing so.


© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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