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Too Much TV or Mobile Screen Exposure Can Cause Suicidal Thoughts in Teens: Study

Extended screen time can cause suicidal thoughts in teens | Image credit: Reuters

Extended screen time can cause suicidal thoughts in teens | Image credit: Reuters

Adolescents who spent an increased amount of time hooked to the screens in the form of television, smartphone or game consoles, showed signs of developing suicidal thoughts in their later teens.

A new study has found that adolescents who spent an increased amount of time hooked to the screens in the form of television, smartphone or game consoles, showed signs of developing suicidal thoughts in their later teens.

The research was conducted upon as many as 500 teens over a 10-year period, starting at age 13. The study began in 2009. Through the years, it was found that adolescent girls whose time spent watching TV, playing video games or on social media increased in their early teens showed signs of suicidal thoughts. The same was true for adolescent boys where video games and cyberbullying was involved.

The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-020-01389-6), further said that the use of entertainment apps was found to be risky for girls while reading apps were risky for boys. The experiment suggested that if the “nonnormative patterns of media” are identified during adolescence, suicide can be prevented in many cases.

Lead study author Sarah Coyne, who is the associate director of the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, maintained that spending more time glued to any screen was not resulting in suicidal thoughts but the two events were correlated. However, although it was not causing suicidal thoughts to emerge, Coyne said (https://nypost.com/2021/02/18/study-links-screen-time-to-suicidal-thoughts-in-teen-girls/) prolonged use of screens did lead to “some negative experiences”.

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Speaking about these negative setbacks, Coyne explained how the increased duration of watching TV can mean a teen is not spending enough time with the people around them. Also, excessive or continuous usage of social media sites like Instagram and TikTok can end up a teenager feeling not enough or inferior to those online. They can experience feelings of being left out, jealous or anxious too.

The researcher suggested for parents and guardians to ask their children how they felt by following the people online that they do. If following a certain person makes them feel bad about themselves or brings them down morally, then it is a sign that they should unfollow and take a break from the platform.

first published:February 19, 2021, 19:54 IST