What Parents Should Know About Technology and Depression
Today’s kids are the first generation to grow up fully immersed in technology. This has advantages and disadvantages, with an undeniable downside being increased mental health disorders. While technology can be fun for parents and kids alike, there are ties between technology and depression that parents should know about.
The Connection Between Technology and Depression
Recent research found that depression among kids increased by more than 25% in the past decade, leading to lowered self-esteem.
Though there are several possible contributing factors, it’s undeniable that the increased use of technology takes a toll on children’s mental health. The internet is better able to connect us and help us learn, but it’s also a platform for bullying, insecurity and toxic ideas that can be especially harmful to still-developing minds.
Cyberbullying is common among kids online. They often don’t realize the true impact their words and actions have. It’s easy to hide behind a user name and computer screen to make a mean comment or threaten someone else. Kids often bully because they are still figuring out how to handle social situations and feel like being mean will put them at the top of their social ladder. Bullies are often insecure. By tearing someone else down, they can feel better about themselves. Bullying among adults also often happens online, normalizing it for kids.
Social media often shows kids the “best” photos and experiences, making them self-conscious about their appearance and abilities. Fancy filters can erase blemishes, giving kids unrealistic expectations for how they should look. Children often follow the accounts of celebrities they like and don’t realize people are in charge of making them appear glamorous.
Screen time keeps kids from other activities that nurture their bodies and minds. Research shows that the average kid engages in four to six hours of screen time daily. Being sedentary for this long increases the risk of developing depression.
How to Help Kids Avoid Depression Tied to Tech
Several things can contribute to mental health issues, and you can only do so much to prevent them. However, changing your child’s technology habits can reduce or eliminate depression symptoms. Here are some things you can do.
Limit Their Time
Children from 2-5 years old should only have under one hour of screen time per day, and older kids should not be on for more than two. Two hours is also the standard recommended time for adults. Kids under 2 should only have occasional screen time.
Even if you set a timer, they might have more exposure than you realize. Televisions in the background of other activities can catch their eye, and unattended devices could lead to sneaky behaviors. As easy as it can be to hand your child a device while trying to do something else, another distraction could preserve their well-being.
Encourage Physical Activities
Getting your kids moving distracts them from technology and can improve their physical and mental health. Research shows that regular exercise can help prevent and treat symptoms of depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Children are more motivated to exercise when they do something they love. Sports, dancing, martial arts or just playing outside encourages them to enjoy themselves without using technology. Many sports teach children important life skills without them knowing it, such as responsibility, honesty and emotional control.
Teach Them About It
It’s important to monitor your child’s social media use, but you can’t protect them from everything. Between school and extracurricular activities, they’re likely to see or experience mean or inappropriate content. One of the best things you can do is teach your children about what they may encounter.
Everyone wants to protect their kids, but it helps to tell them about cyberbullying, filters and photo alterations, different morals and beliefs, and responsible posting. That way, they’re equipped with the knowledge to confidently navigate television, video games, internet searches and social media. They can better understand what enriches them and what doesn’t when they guard their hearts and minds against negativity.
Helping Kids Use Technology Wisely
The connection between technology and depression in children is hard to ignore, but that doesn’t mean you should ban it. These days, kids need to know how to navigate the vast amount of content and connections made through tech. Limiting their time and equipping them with the right mindset and life skills reduces their risk of mental health conditions now and in the future.
Author bio: Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She strives to live a happy and healthy life with her family by her side.
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