Several famous personalities (including royalty, celebrities, investors and high-ranking technology company executives) recently highlighted the ill effects of social media on the mental health of youngsters. On the other hand, there are some who have made it their life’s mission to advocate children’s safety and emotional well-being in a social media- and smartphone-obsessed world. Since 2003, Hollywood actress and philanthropist Goldie Hawn has been championing the cause of children’s mental health through The Hawn Foundation and its MindUP program which uses mindfulness and emotional learning skills to increase children’s resilience.
In a media interview on the sidelines of the World Government Summit held in Dubai in February 2018, Hawn was particularly concerned about the detrimental impact of social media on young people’s mental health. She explained that since social media had a “tremendous” impact on the mind and given that the brain continued developing till the age of 24, children were dealing with more than they could cope with. This was possibly giving rise to feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Hawn urged parents to step up their vigilance of children’s time spent online. It was equally important for parents to bring about changes in their own digital consumption patterns. “You have to get offline. And that means that mommy, you have to put your phone down,” Hawn stressed. Since children can be easily influenced by parents, it was important for adults to lead by example and “get offline.” She encouraged parents to form emotional bonds with their children and give them their undivided attention.
Mental illnesses assuming epidemic proportions
According to the actress, the serious burden of mental illnesses had assumed nearly epidemic proportions worldwide. She emphasized that it was important to pay attention to the problems and not let fear come in the way. This could help in alleviating some of the issues and build “stronger emotional stability.” While acknowledging that mental illnesses could not be completely done away with, Hawn said that efforts needed to be undertaken to improve the current situation.
Hawn highlighted the recent increase in teen suicides, noting that it was the second- and third-leading cause of death among teens aged 15-19 and younger kids, respectively. Recognizing the global need for interventions to equip children with resilience and improve their mental health, Hawn launched her foundation and the MindUP program. She collaborated with scientists, researchers and educators to develop MindUP so that each and every child could leverage opportunities to prosper. The program is currently operational in educational institutions across 11 countries.
Dangers of excessive internet use
In recent times, there has been an increasing focus on the dangers posed by excessive internet use on children’s mental health and emotional well-being. Past research showed that nearly 50 percent teens felt addicted to their mobile devices, while 59 percent parents agreed that their children were addicted. Nearly 36 percent parents and 32 percent teens reported arguing on a daily basis about using mobile devices. Multitasking, a common feature of digital lifestyles, gave rise to concerns about children’s ability to stay focused and pay attention.
Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is an outcome of the compulsive time spent on online gaming activities, mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) and computers. Although IAD is not an official clinical diagnosis as per the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the disorder is characterized by acute psychological, social and mental impairments affecting many of life’s daily activities. Students with compulsive internet use frequently suffer from low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, emotional instability and aggression. These issues result in poor academic performance and falling grades.
Addressing internet addiction
It was previously estimated that 4 percent American high school students suffered from problematic internet use. Although internet addiction is a relatively new concept which is still being studied, past research found that psychotherapeutic interventions in the form of standardized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were effective in alleviating the associated psychopathological symptoms.
Teen mental health in the digital world is a real and pressing concern. Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego offers holistic treatment for teen internet addiction and its associated outcomes. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives for more information about our teen internet addiction treatment programs.