We keep pouring money into our personal electronic devices like there’s no tomorrow, always wanting more, always wanting the very latest—and schools are no different. In fact, $3.8 billion is spent on classroom technology every year—but 27% of it doesn’t meet any learning goals!

Translation: $1 billion of your ed tech tax dollars are wasted annually.

At the same time, in the name of funding issues, only three states provide kids with at least one school counselor–formerly known as guidance counselors–for every 250 students, as recommended. Equally troubling, just three others have at least one school psychologist for every 750 students, so says federal data.

Put them together and what have you got? Rising rates of anxiety and depression in our young people with not much of a safety net at the ready for them.

Moreover…

  • In a 2019 Pew Research Poll, 70% of surveyed teens agreed that stress, anxiety, and depression are a major problem among their peers.
  • A 2017 American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey found that 60% of parents worry about social media’s influence on their child’s physical and mental health.
  • A recent NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found that almost 33% of 1,300 parents of 5- to 17-year-olds blamed social media for their children’s mental and emotional health problems.
  • From 2009 to 2017, the CDC says that depression rates for those 14 to 17 rose by more than 60%.
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 32% of adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder, with 12% of our 12- to 17-year-olds reporting one major depressive episode in the last year.
  • Between 2005 and 2017, the proportion of teens, 12 to 17, reporting major depressive symptoms rose from 8.7% to 13.2%, according to data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

About such facts and arguing that teens turn to their smartphones as their “preferred social outlet, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge says, “It suggests that something is seriously wrong in the lives of young people and that whatever went wrong seemed to happen around 2012 or 2013.”

And that’s about the time when, as Twenge notes, smartphones became commonplace and “social media moved from being optional to mandatory among youngsters…. What you get is a fundamental shift in how teens spend their leisure time. They are spending less time sleeping, less time with their friends face-to-face… It is not something that happened to their parents….”

University of Southern California Vice Provost for Campus Wellness & Crisis Intervention Varun San adds this: “At the root of it is a sense of disconnection. These are students who are so connected online. These are students that may have 1,000 friends online but struggle to make friends in real life.”

Also of note:

  1. Of the 1,800 19- to 21-year-olds questioned, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the top 25% of social media users are at greater risk of experiencing depression than the bottom 25%.
  2. The University College London found that teens who use social media more than 5 hours a day showed a 50% increase in depressive symptoms among girls and a 35% jump among boys compared to the 1- to 3-hour users.
  3. According to a UK Millennium Cohort study, 43% of girls said they spend 3 hours or more on social media, as did 21.9% of boys—and 26% of those girls and 21% of those boys had higher depressive scores than those spending less than 3 hours.

And now this just in: An analysis by the National Institutes of Health, the University of Albany, and NYU’s Langone Medical Center found that babies as young as 12 months experience nearly one hour of screen time every day, and 3-year-olds put in more than 150 minutes.

In other words, take heed and set limits, following the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines that recommend NO screens for babies/toddlers under 18 months, with a gradual add-on between 18 to 24 months, and no more than one hour per day for the 2 to 5 set.

And then tell your kids…

  1. No more than 2 hours a day on any device—other than computer-related homework.
  2. No devices at the dinner table or during quiet homework/study time except for online assignments
  3. No device use one hour before bedtime—too stimulating, plus the blue light wreaks havoc on sleep.
  4. No going to bed with their smartphone in hand. If used as a wake-up alarm, buy an alarm clock instead.

Oh, yes, and follow your own good advice for your own good…

With my many thanks, Carol