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Are smartphones stressing kids out?

Technically Incorrect: A leading British psychologist says she's seen an enormous uptick in cases of teen anorexia, depression and cutting and believes in many cases its related to the ubiquity and instant nature of technology.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Once kids have phones, are they open to things they can't handle? Tim Wilkins/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's an increasing number of people in the world who can't remember a time before laptops and phones.

These devices have become not merely an integral part of our lives, but the means through which we live. Perhaps far too much.

One British psychologist believes these gadgets may be wrecking kids' mental health. In an interview with the Telegraph, Julie Lynn Evans gave a very dark view of electronics' incursion into kids' psyches.

She said: "Something is clearly happening because I am seeing the evidence in the numbers of depressive, anorexic, cutting children who come to see me. And it always has something to do with the computer, the Internet and the smartphone."

Lynn Evans, who I've reached out to for further comment, specifically targeted smartphones for her observations. She told the Telegraph: "It's a simplistic view, but I think it is the ubiquity of broadband and smartphones that has changed the pace and the power and the drama of mental illness in young people."

Lynn Evans talked about access to anorexia Web sites, pornography and cyberbullying.

Messages about you are out there all the time. Your opportunity to respond to those messages is instant. However, your instant reaction often elicits another instant reaction. Thought is therefore abandoned to impulse.

And it's constant. It's a permanent school playground where no one stops talking, no one stops emoting. The opportunity to be hurt is exponentially greater.

For kids, still learning about their own emotions and the world around them, this is an especially vulnerable time. Lynn Evans's solution: "I think children should have privacy within their own rooms and in their diaries, and I think they should have the Internet, but I don't think they should have both, certainly not until they have proved they are completely safe and reliable."

Perhaps another question worth asking, though, is whether any of us are sane anymore.

Is our own mental health truly any better than that of our kids? We're just as addicted to our gadgets as they are. Many of us toss invective into the digital ether as if it was confetti at a wedding. Look what Ashley Judd had to deal with last week on Twitter.

Our ability to be considerate and forgiving is surely being tested to its breaking point. Our need to display our lives to as many people as possible is becoming pathological.

We're desperate for "likes," in the same breath as we're ready to hate.

Technology has moved so fast that it's dragging us with it, whether we like it or not. Social media sites and apps are being specifically designed not only to hook us, but to change our behavior in a way that best coincides with the site's commercial aims.

As so often happens, we're too weak to resist, too easily sucked in by the lure of something new, free or instantly ego-gratifying.

And then we wonder why we're so unhappy.