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New study says teens are more likely to feel depressed, suicidal, with increased screen time

A girl holds a mobile phone as she walks in Vienna on May 8, 2012.
A girl holds a mobile phone as she walks in Vienna on May 8, 2012.
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A number of studies have already pointed to the negative health effects of being glued to our screens, including lower self-esteem, increased anxiety and poor impact on overall well-being.

But new research from San Diego State University says that increased screen time among teens, especially teen girls, might have caused a 2010 to 2015 uptick in depression and suicidal thoughts.

The study surveyed more than 500,000 teens in the U.S. and found that the suicide rate for girls age 13 to 18 increased 65 percent, while 48 percent of teens who spent at least five hours a day on their screens (via cell phone, tablet or computer) reported at least one suicide-related outcome (i.e. suicidal ideations, plans and attempts) compared to the 28 percent who spent less than an hour of screen time per day.

As children continue to develop in a world dependent on social media, how should parents help monitor their amount of time spent online? What measures can be taken to identify teens struggling as a result of the overuse of smartphones and laptops? Larry speaks with the lead author of the study.

With KPCC reporter Libby Denkmann as guest host


Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of “iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” (Simon and Schuster, August 2017); she is the lead author of the study “Screen time might boost depression, suicide behaviors in teens