‘Smartphones are making kids depressed’, warns top psychiatrist

Smartphones could make children anxious or depressed. Source: Getty.

Children who use smartphones from a young age are at greater risk of suffering from depression and anxiety, according to a leading psychiatrist.

Dr Jon Goldin revealed a link between a rise in depression, particularly among women aged 16-24, and the boom in popularity of smartphones around a decade ago. He told The Telegraph, the issue is then fuelled by issues such as cyberbullying, body image issues and dangerous material promoting promoting self-harm and eating disorders, as well as ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out).

The Royal College psychiatrist, from London, also warned that children should spend no more than two hours per day on social media after it was proven that doing so could lead to them becoming depressed or suffering from anxiety.

Goldin has now called on the government to issue official guidance to parents, warning them of the dangers associated with the use of smartphones among kids under the age of 11, which he believes would help mums and dads to resist their kids’ demands for the latest phone model.

“Children often say to their parents: ‘All my friends are [getting phones] and you are not allowing me to do that.’ In that situation, parents do need the support of national guidance,” Goldin said. “I don’t think we can legislate but this guidance would back parents up when they were having conversations with their 10-year-olds.”

Almost 40 per cent of eight- to 11 year-olds in the UK have smart phones, but a poll for the Priory group, providers of rehab and mental health care, found 67 per cent of parents would back the government legislating on an appropriate age for the use of smartphones. While 44 per cent supported a ban on children under 16 having smartphones.

The poll, which quizzed 1,000 parents of kids aged 10 to 18, also revealed that an astonishing 92 per cent of parents believed social media and the internet was having a negative impact on the mental health of young people, with 50 per cent blaming cyber-bullying, 43 per cent concerned about disrupted sleep and 41 per cent worried about lowering self-esteem.

A recent study also highlighted the issues associated with parents who spend too much time glued to their mobile phones when they’re around their children, which has been dubbed “technoference”.

Researchers at the Illinois State University and the University of Michigan Medical School said this type of neglect could actually be what is causing kids to feel frustrated, to sulk, whinge, throw tantrums or even experience hyperactivity.

The research, published in the Pediatric Research Journal, set out to analyse the role and impact digital devices can play when it comes to parenting and child behaviour and claimed that using a devise can limit conversations and make parents more hostile towards their kids when they’re craving attention.

For the study, 337 parents with kids aged five or younger were asked to answer questions based on how often devices interrupted their conversations. Next, parents were asked to rate their child’s internalising behaviour such as how often they sulked or how easily their feelings were hurt, as well as externalising behaviour including how angry or easily frustrated they were.

Parents were also asked to rate their own levels of stress and depression, the help they received from their partners and how often a child used devices. The results found that in almost all cases, at least one device impacted the relationship between parents and their kids during the day.

While technology may provide an escape for parents to cope with difficult child behaviour, it also found that it deprives parents of the chance to provide meaningful emotional support and positive feedback to their children. This can lead children to express more problematic behaviour, which can add to a parent’s stress levels.

The issue of excessive mobile phone use among school children is also hugely topical as French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday that smartphones and tablets will be banned from all French schools.

The phone ban will apply to all pupils in France under the age of 15 and will start in September.

What do you think? Should children be allowed to use smartphones from a young age, or is it a worsening problem?

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