Study shows link in teen suicides, social networking

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Always a tumultuous time, adolescence has become more dangerous with the growth of social media.

After declining for nearly 20 years, the teen suicide rate rose between 2010 and 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The struggle to fit in and adjust to changing bodies and changing roles has always been difficult, but even more so when one is bombarded with images of others’ adventures, acquisitions, friends and successes, not to mention outright cyberbullying.

According to a study published Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science:

* Teens’ use of electronic devices including phones for at least five hours a day more than doubled, from 8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015. Those teens were 70 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those with one hour of use.

* Thirty-six percent of all teens reported feeling desperately sad or hopeless, up from 32 percent. Girls were more likely, 45 percent up from 40 percent.

* In 2009, 58 percent of 12th-grade girls used social media every day or nearly every day; by 2015, 87 percent used social media nearly every day.

Teens aren’t just communicating with their friends; a CNN study titled “#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens” found that teens obsessively use social media to monitor their own popularity and defend themselves against those who challenge it.

It’s essential for parents to take some basic steps:

* Control privacy. Facebook users must be 13 or older. It’s also essential that privacy settings be set to prevent unsavory characters from interacting with the child and keep track of contacts.

* Know all you can about social networking sites before allowing children to use them.

* Control what if any personal photos are posted online

* Disable location/geo-tagging to prevent unwanted physical contacts.

* Set daily limits for “screen time” and stick to them.

The American Psychological Association offers guidance on teen suicide prevention here.

NPR suggests 10 safe social interaction sites for kids here.

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