(CBS Local) — Parents commonly struggle finding ways to pry their children away from smartphones and other digital devices but a disturbing new study is giving them new incentive. Researchers at Florida State University (FSU) say there’s a link between an increased risk of suicide in teens and the time spent using mobile devices.
“There is a concerning relationship between excessive screen time and risk for death by suicide, depression… All of those mental health issues are very serious. I think it’s something parents should ponder,” FSU professor and the study’s co-author Thomas Joiner said in a press release. Joiner and fellow researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) studied teen suicide rates and surveys about depression dating back to 1991.
The study found that 48 percent of teens who spent over five hours a day on a digital device had thought about suicide. That number was only 28 percent among teens who were only online for an hour or less. “Teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed,” co-author Jean Twenge wrote. The SDSU professor also makes the case in her own book that teens who are dependent on technology have become less rebellious but “completely unprepared for adulthood.”
The CDC reports that the suicide rate among teens as well as the number of adolescents diagnosed with depression jumped by over 30 percent from 2010 to 2015. The study linked much of the rise in self-destructive behavior to the growing use of social media at school and at home. “It’s totally unrealistic and probably not even good to think kids will stop using screens,” Joiner confessed. “It comes down to moderation. Parents should try to make non-screen activities as attractive as possible.”