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May 26, 2021
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Sophia Clark

How Cell Phones Affect Teenagers Mental Health?

According to a national survey, more than 84% of teenagers these days own cell phones or smartphones. The study revealed that 50% of all twins get their mobile phones by age of 11 years. Cell phone usage has drastically increased from the start of the decade. Teenagers are also more likely to be on social media.

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The Pew Research Centre confirmed that 45% of teens use the internet constantly throughout the day. The study also confirmed that almost 44% of teenagers feel that they need to be online multiple times per day. These teenagers felt the compulsion of staying online which can be a symptom of internet addiction.

There are positive effects of using the internet and social media. It helps us in many ways from finding a new recipe to try to communicate with our friends and family across the globe. Teenagers can find new opportunities with the help of the internet and gain new knowledge and hobbies. We can stay connected to their friends and families at all times by using social media.

But the same internet and mobile phones can potentially have negative effects on the mental health of teenagers.

A recent study shows that the number of teens being admitted to hospital due to suicide attempts and thoughts has doubled in the past 10 years. Even though it is easy to blame cell phone usage and social media as the factor causing mental health issues in teenagers, it can be seen as a clear contributing factor.

Pew research confirmed that teenagers who use social networking sites in excess of 3 hours daily are at higher risk of having mental health issues. The study also revealed that 66% of teenagers use social media for more than 2 hours a day. The same teenagers also reported having more mental distress and being more prone to anxiety.

There are many causes for the increase in mental issues among teenagers due to excessive use of social media. Here are some of the causes of mental health issues in teenagers:

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying refers to a type of bullying that takes place through digital devices such as cell phones, laptops, tablets, or desktops. It can happen through calls or texts too. Cyberbullying is a violent and aggressive act and is done to harm the victim. It is also repetitive as a bully is always persistent with bullying.

Cyberbullying can also happen via social media platforms. They may occur in or from online forums, messaging platforms, or video games. It can include threats through sending messages or calling on cell phones. Cyberbullying includes harming others through social media posts, sharing a negative comment, excessive trolling, spreading false rumours or spreading someone's private photos.

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A study revealed that teenagers witness more cyberbullying on their social media than adults. It revealed that 88% of teenagers have witnessed some sort of cyberbullying on social media sites. Pew Research revealed that nearly 43% of all teenagers have faced bullying online. The recent studies stated that the number of teenagers that are cyberbullied has doubled from the year 2007.

While traditional bullying was done in person, cyberbullying can be performed through various digital mediums and can take different forms. It may range from pranking or trolling someone to pretending to be someone else and sharing their information. It can also include posting mean comments or spreading hateful messages.

Bullying and cyberbullying often take place with vulnerable people including children and teenagers. Cyberbullying is often seen in people who are different in appearance, race, religion, sexuality, and disability.

Even though companies are frequently trying to combat cyberbullying on social media platforms, it has become inevitable on most sites. It is unfortunate and even disheartening that teenagers have to suffer from cyberbullying. Teenagers often deal with self-image issues and getting bullied on social media for these topics may cause a lasting impact on their emotional and mental health.

Cyberbullying research center revealed that cyberbullying in teenagers most occurs in social media platform Instagram followed closely by Facebook and Snapchat.

Some of the mental health warning signs of someone being cyberbullied are as follows:

● Anxiety

● Depression

● Eating disorder

● Social anxiety

● Social withdrawal

● Self-harm

● Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Body Image Issues

Social media has a large part in shaping today's culture mostly for teenagers. Teenagers are constantly on their cell phones scrolling through social media posts. They scroll through images of models and advertisements for weight loss for regimen, slimming tea, and other weight loss products. Such posts can influence teenagers a lot and they even start to be conscious of their body shape.

Social media networks particularly where images are posted have been found to establish negative body image issues. These social media sites have accounts and pages where people idolize and standardize a certain body type. People are also constantly judged for their appearance, body type, and weight on images that they post of themselves.

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This can affect the perspective of teenagers about a “perfect body” type. They perceive to have a perfect notion of what their body should look like. Teenagers are more vulnerable to this as they are still growing into their bodies. They are often not comfortable with the stage of their body growth. This makes teenagers more susceptible to mental health-related body image issues.

Social media presents a distorted view of reality when it comes to body image and appearance. Models and advertisements on social media mostly offer photos that are either photoshop or contains filters. Photoshopped photos alter the reality of the human body and establish an ideal body type in the mind of teenagers. People perceive that being an ideal body type is the best way to be.

Since these body types are unreal to idolize, teenagers trying to be a certain way are often disappointed. They hold a lot of expectations for themselves and their appearance to fit the ideal body type. When they are not able to achieve it, they suffer from different mental health issues.

Social media also provides a ground for comparison between yourself and the rest of the world. This constant comparison also leads to low self-esteem for someone who has body image issues. Teenagers can feel hurt by the comments about their body and appearance when they post pictures.

Body image issues can manifest in the following mental health issues:

● Eating disorders

● Bulimia

● Anxiety

● Depression

● Self-harm

● Low self-esteem

Digital Addiction

Digital addiction is the compulsive obsessive disorder of using digital devices or Digital platforms. It can also be this disorder of compulsive use of cell phones and the internet. It can also be called technology addiction or internet addiction or cell phone addiction or smartphone addiction.

According to the Pew Research Centre, teenagers constantly feel the need to be on their cell phones and online. It revealed that 28% of all teenagers feel like they are hooked on social media.

A recent study showed that withdrawal from digital addiction can be similar to the withdrawal of nicotine. Some mobile applications are said to be as addictive as cocaine. These mobile phones provide an escape to teenagers from the challenges of real life. But before they are aware they get hooked on using their devices compulsively.

Cyberbullying, Sextortion, and Pornography are the main reasons for teen anxiety. Digital addiction has been classified into 5 different forms and they are information overload, gaming addiction, Internet addiction, compulsive addiction, and pornography addiction. They are explained as follows:

1. Information Overload

Using a mobile phone for surfing online too much, can lead to a decrease in productivity at school due to information overload. Teenagers can have an overload of information as they surf the internet to gain more and more knowledge that they might not require in their real life.

However, one thing to keep in mind is all the information that kids obtain from the internet might not be relevant. Some of the news or information on the internet can be fake. Thus, before believing any information, ask your teenager to do proper research.

2. Gaming Addiction

Online games are now really popular on cell phones. Teenagers get hooked on mobile games and cannot stop playing this game harming their social life and productivity at school. Most mobile games are made to be incredibly addictive for the benefit of the mobile game company. For example, PUBG, Fortnite, mobile legend, Ludo, Candy Crush, etc.

When teenagers start to get addicted to mobile games, they start to prioritize games more than their studies and their personal life. They only see the positive side of gaming when they are addicted to mobile gaming and ignore the negative sides.

3. Internet Addiction

Internet addiction can also be called social media addiction. In this type of addiction, teenagers feel an impulse to use the internet without any break. They overspend their time on these sites rather than forming meaningful relationships in real life. They value the image they create on these sites rather than doing constructive work outside social media. Example: Facebook addiction, Instagram addiction, TikTok addiction, or YouTube addiction.

These days teenagers love to make friends on the internet rather than in their personal life. If you teenagers show signs like depression, anxiety, dropping in their academic performance, sleepiness, etc.

4. Compulsive Addiction

Compulsive addiction to cell phones refers to having to unlock or track mobile phones without an explicit need. Teenagers might feel the need to check their cell phones compulsively between the interval of a certain period without a clear need of doing so.

Smartphone addiction can be subtle at first but can be a severe problem. It can also be heightened cell phone usage. Moreover, teenagers can feel their phone are vibrating even when it is not vibrating and it is due to cell phone addiction.

5. Pornography Addiction

Pornography addiction is a rising problem in teenagers. They are easily accessible to teenagers due to the rise of the internet and the use of cell phones. Teenagers are extremely susceptible to having an addiction to watching pornography. Statistics revealed that 87% of male teenagers from ages 13 to 18 regularly visit pornographic sites. The percentage stands at 31% for female teenagers.

Symptoms of mental health issues caused by different forms of digital addictions are as follows:

● Headache

● Insomnia

● Social withdrawal

● Depression

● Anxiety

● Inability to concentrate

● Loss of productivity

● Low self-esteem and confidence

What Can Parents Do?

You must be wondering what you can do to help your children tackle these issues. It is hard for parents to see their children battle mental health issues caused due to cell phone addiction, cyberbullying, body image issues, and other problems caused by excessive use of mobile phones. As a parent, no one can help him or her better than you if your child is being bullied online.

You need to be aware of the warning signs of mental health issues that are mentioned above. You must be aware of what your kids are using their cell phones and determine the duration of cell phone usage.

While you think that social media are safe for teenagers, most community guidelines of these applications suggest parents' guidance for use. If your kids are under the age of 18 years then they are still not considered adults and need your guidance. To prevent and stop the problems caused by cell phones, I suggest you use parental control applications.

Parental Control software is software that helps in restricting and controlling the use of digital devices and cell phone applications. They help parents by keeping that children secure through their multiple features. Some of the most prominent features of most parental control applications are as follows:

● Limit Cell Phone Usage

Parental Control Apps can help in limiting the cell phone usage of teenagers. These apps can help tackle the cell phone addiction of your teenagers. Parental Control applications help in limiting cell phone use by showing the screen time of every application.

You will be able to monitor the screen time of your teenager. The parental control application will show you how much time your child is spent on which application. You can use this to calculate the overall cell phone usage duration of your child.

These can be used to tackle cell phone addiction and mobile game addiction of your child. You will be able to set up a cut-off time and limit mobile phone usage after the given time.

You can also check if they are spending their screen time on something productive or using social media applications. You can allocate healthy periods for every application they use and limit the use of those applications preventing them from getting hooked on it.

● Monitor Social Media Habits

You can also use parental controls to monitor the social media habit of your child. You can see what they are using social media for. You can check their messages with their friends and also monitor if they are befriending a stranger.

You can limit their usage of social media applications preventing them from getting addicted to it. You can view the timeline of your child for possible threats of cyberbullying. You will be able to monitor their messages and realize if they are being cyberbullied or are cyberbullying someone.

You can also check the contents that they are consuming. This will help you talk to them about the unrealistic body image perception set by social media networks.

● Filter or Block Inappropriate Content

Parental control apps can help in filtering inappropriate content. It can help by blocking the advertisement of explicit content on different websites. It also helps in blocking unwanted content that maybe pornography or other inappropriate sites.

You can also block sites that link to the dark web, gambling apps, and addictive gaming sites too from the web browser of the mobile phones of your children.

Best Parental Controls ForMonitoring Your Kids

Some of the best and most popular parental control applications are listed below. All of these applications have similar basic features of every parental control. But some features that stand out among them are also mentioned below.

A. Fenced.ai

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Fenced.ai is a parental control application that is deemed to be the best. It is a monitoring and surveillance application for parents and has proper backup and monitoring features.

They offer a range of features in their basic and premium plans. They are one of the best internet solutions to protect your kids from potential dangers. Fenced.ai will help you prevent and stop any harmful and inappropriate content from reaching your kid.

One of the best features of fenced.ai is it provides a wifi logger feature that will notify you if they connect to some unsafe wifi. Likewise, you can even create a virtual fence through this app.

Features of Fenced.ai:

● Free demo available

● Free basic features

● Compatible for both iPhone and Android

● Monitor almost all social media applications

● Get instant alerts for any suspicious activities

● Monitor web browsing history

● View application screen time

● Bundle packages for multiple devices

● Filter or block inappropriate content

B. Qustodio

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Qustodio is a strong parental control application. It helps in monitoring the online activities of your child in real-time. You can manually filter the inappropriate content for the web browsers for your children.

By using Qustodio, you will be able to protect your child from cyber threats. This parental control application also has every basic feature that was mentioned above in parental control features. This app provides you your kids' device usage activities for 30 days.

The coolest feature about the app is it provides an SOS button that your kids can use whenever they are in some trouble. However, this feature is available only on Android devices.

Features of Qustodio:

● Extension of reporting

● Panic button to alert when your child is in danger

● Social media monitoring

● Block pornography

● Compatible for both iPhone and Android

● Bundle packages for multiple devices

C. NetNanny

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NetNanny is another best parental control application that is highly popular. It is primarily a web filtering application rather than monitoring software.

Unlike other parental controls, this application does not have any features of social media monitoring. But it is a strong web filtering and application tool. You can even block all the inappropriate apps on your kids' devices and limit their screen time.

Features of NetNanny:

● Block applications

● Block pornography

● Filter inappropriate sites

● Compatible for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows on premium versions.

Conclusion

Cell phones can significantly affect the mental health of teenagers. They can severely affect your kids and lead them to have mental health issues. Some of the major issues that are caused by using cell phones are cyberbullying, body image issues, and digital addiction. They result in causing anxiety and depression in teenagers.

For the protection of our kids, we should protect them through the use of parental control applications. We can use them for monitoring screen time, social media apps, and filtering inappropriate content.

FAQs

What is the appropriate age to give a cell phone to kids?

The appropriate age to give cell phones to kids is in their early teens. So 13-15 is the right age to provide your child with cell phones. But remember that you need to supervise them when they are using their cell phones. Children can fall victim to cyber predators and cyberbullying.

Can mobile use affect the brain of kids?

Mobile phone usage for an extended period can cause mental health issues in children. It can cause anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. Mobile phones can be addictive to children.

How many hours should I use my smartphone daily?

You should not be spending more than 4 hours a day on your smartphones. You should only be using your mobile phone for an average of 3 hours. You should not be using your social media applications for more than 2 hours a day. Using social media for more than 2 hours daily can be harmful to you.


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Sophia Clark

Sophia Clark is a writer from Sydney, kid-lit enthusiast, and mom of three kids who loves to writes about motherhood, parenting, and big feelings.