Adolescents and teens are increasingly spending more time online, especially on social media platforms. This makes them vulnerable to online risks like cyberbullying, sexual solicitation and exposure to explicit content which can adversely impact their emotional and psychological health. A recent research has suggested that such negative effects last only temporarily, and teens are able to brush off the negative emotions from online hazards fairly quickly.
The researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF), Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and Ohio State University (OSU) monitored the online activities of 68 teens aged between 13 and 17 years over a period of eight weeks, and analyzed their emotional state and well-being using pre-validated psychological scales. The findings, to be presented at the 2018 conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, showed that although teens reported a higher level of negative emotions during the weeks they experienced cyberbullying and explicit content, such feelings went away within a week.
Teens’ online activities remain concerning
Co-author Pamela Wisniewski, an assistant professor of computer science at UCF, said that parents’ concerns regarding the online activities of their children were justified, particularly since their use of mobile devices resulted in them being “practically tethered to the internet.” However, she believed that online risks were being overstated, thereby, creating another layer of stress for teens and their parents. According to her, what should matter was how such activities impacted the “everyday teen.”
Wisniewski also acknowledged that there were incidents of “severe online risks” experienced by teens which led to long-term negative consequences like suicide. Although such instances were devastating, she considered them to be extreme situations. “The good news is that in our study, we found that these extreme scenarios aren’t the average teen experience,” she said.
Resilience may help teens bounce back
Co-author Bridget C. McHugh, a former Ph.D. student at the UCF, explained that although teens had higher levels of negative online exposure, they pulled through and showed resilience. “We’re not exactly sure how they are learning the coping skills, but they are and that’s good news,” said McHugh, currently a leadership development consultant at OSU. She believed that teens were probably coping with help from other online friends or through support from social media communities.
Teaching kids to be resilient is a critical part of their development. In September 2017, Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the United Kingdom’s Department of Health, launched a series of initiatives for teachers to help them equip students with critical life skills. While launching the program, John N. Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said, “As natives of the social media world, young people have to navigate a minefield of challenges while enjoying the benefits of technology.”
Higher internet exposure adversely impacts teen mental health
Results from a 2016 study showed that major depression was on the rise among American youngsters, especially teens and girls. The 12-month prevalence of major depressive episodes (MDEs) among adolescents increased from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014. A higher prevalence of MDEs among girls was attributed to greater exposure to depressive risk factors, including cyberbullying and “problematic mobile phone use.”
Although it is encouraging that teens are able to bounce back from negative online experiences, causes for concern remain. In 2015, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 years and the third-leading cause of death among those aged between 10 and 14 years. Past research indicates a significant association between depression and risk of suicide among adolescents. Moreover, depression is the main predictor of suicidal thoughts.
Dealing with teen mental health issues
With timely interventions, teen mental health issues can be resolved. While it may not be possible for parents to continuously monitor their children’s online activities, they can watch out for obvious signs of distress. By communicating openly with their children, parents can help youngsters manage risks effectively.
Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego offers comprehensive mental health rehab for teens. Our experts conduct detailed patient assessments in addition to studying other factors that may help explain the onset of mental disorders in adolescents. Call at our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives for more information about our residential mental health facilities for teens.