Last December, a team of economists at the University of Sheffield, in England, showed that the more time youth (aged 10-15) spent on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, the less happy they were – whether that applied to their appearance, their family, how they felt about their school work, and life as a whole. The only exception to this was in the area friendships. Girls suffered more adverse effects than boys.

Social media is a core part of young people’s lives – on both sides of the Atlantic. Portals like Facebook are generally always turned on, on the smartphone or tablet, so kids are always checking their feed, with other people in their network. With that has come a rise in the number of young people seeking help. Read this for more

The University of Sheffield study raised an interesting question, one that’s worth exploring more: do pre-existing mood issues create the problem kids have with technology or does technology create the problem with moods?

We asked CAMH social worker Lisa Pont this question. Lisa is working with young people experiencing the problematic use of screens. She is one of the staff at CAMH’s Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario.

“It’s a cycle,” she says. “We have young patients, they have mood issues, anxiety issues, and the technology is an attempt to deal with the mood issues. It works in the shorter term, but in the end, it only exacerbates the problem.”

For example, as Lisa explains, if you have a mood problem, and you attempt to treat it by getting immersed in a video game, you will find short-term relief from difficult feelings. But if you are playing games at the expense of other things you need to be doing, your anxiety will increase – conflict with family, poor school grades, lack of sleep.

“It’s a bi-directional relationship, between the use of technology and the mood issues,” she says.

We aren’t quite at the stage where it’s the kids who are coming for counseling. At least not yet, anyway.

“More often than not it’s the parents who are strongly suggesting they come for treatment,” Lisa says. “Parents are worried about things like grades. They are worried about the amount of time they are spending online, and with the changes in moods, so they push them into treatment.”

For that University of Sheffield paper, go here:




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