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February 11, 2020

Excess smartphone use linked to mental distress, suicidality

Agencies

Using smartphone for long hours every day may do you more harm than you can probably think of. Researchers have found that spending a lot of time with the device and on social media may lead to mental distress and suicidality among adolescents.

The findings, published in the journal CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) contains guidance for physicians, parents and teachers on how to help teenagers manage smartphone and social media use for a healthy balance between sleep, academic work, social activity, interpersonal relationships and online activity.

"Physicians, teachers and families need to work together with youth to decrease possible harmful effects of smartphones and social media on their relationships, sense of self, sleep, academic performance, and emotional well-being," said lead author of the study Elia Abi-Jaoude from Toronto Western Hospital in Canada.

This review of evidence, led by the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), focuses on smartphone use and does not consider online gaming.

"For adolescents today, who have not known a world without social media, digital interactions are the norm, and the potential benefits of online access to productive mental health information -- including media literacy, creativity, self-expression, sense of belonging and civic engagement -- as well as low barriers to resources such as crisis lines and Internet-based talking therapies cannot be discounted," the authors wrote.

The researchers recommend that doctors should ask teenagers to reduce social media use rather than eradicate it completely and encourage parents to be part of the conversations.

Parents should discuss appropriate smartphone use with teenagers to determine together how to reduce risks and set boundaries.

A recent poll from the US indicates that 54 per cent of teenagers think they spend too much time on their smartphones and about half said they were cutting back on usage.

"Encouragingly, youth are increasingly recognising the negative impact of social media on their lives and starting to take steps to mitigate it," the authors wrote.

Excess smartphone use linked to mental distress, suicidality

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