Explained: How smartphone use as a child can lead to mental health issues

Thinking of giving your teenager a smartphone? It is recommended that you read this report before making such a decision. A study by US-based non-profit Sapien Labs reportedly found that the later kids get a smartphone or tablet, the better their mental health is likely to be as adults.

The findings also revealed that females who get a smartphone at an early age are more affected than their male counterparts.

How was the study conducted, what are the main findings and what does it mean? We explain.

The study entitled Age of First Smartphone and Mental Well-being Outcomes was released on Sunday (May 14). It looked at data collected from 27,969 adults aged 18 to 24 from more than 40 countries between January and April of this year.

About 4,000 of these adults were from India.

A global study found that children who use smartphones at a young age are more likely to have mental health problems in the future. Pixabay (representative image)

Like the English newspaper Indian Express Noted, this research is part of the Global Mind Project, which is an ongoing survey of global mental well-being, conducted by Sapien Labs to understand and enable the human mind.

According to the journal, the data was collected from the volunteers through an assessment that has 47 items covering a wide range of symptoms and mental abilities on a Life Impact Scale that are combined to provide an aggregate score, called the Mental Health Quotient. or MHQ, as well as dimensional scores.

These scores and ratings of each item were then compared to the reported age of owning the first smartphone or tablet, reported Hindustan Times (HT).

What are the results?

According to the study, young adults in the 18-24 age group, who got smartphones at an early age, have worse mental health, with women more affected than men.

As many as 74 percent of female participants, who received their first smartphone at age six, faced mental health issues as young adults with their scores falling in the “distressed” or “distressed” MHQ range , as from Times of India (TOI).

Of the women who got their first smartphone at age 10, about 61% had mental health problems as young adults. This decreased further by 52% for those who received the device at age 15.

When the age of first possession of a smartphone was 18, it was found that about 46% of women had mental health problems.

As many as 74 percent of female participants, who received their first smartphone at age six, had faced mental health issues as young adults. Pixabay (representative image)

In the case of men, about 42% who bought their first smartphone at the age of six experienced “distressed” or “distressed” states of mind. That dropped to 36 percent for men who got the device at age 18, reportedly TOI.

The study found that as children purchase smartphones in later life, their social self, an aggregate measure of various elements such as self-confidence and the ability to relate positively to others, improves.

The findings are consistent across regions, including South Asia, and thus also apply to India. Problems with suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others, sense of detachment from reality, and hallucinations decreased more sharply and significantly with older age of first smartphone ownership for females and also for males, but to a lesser extent , the researchers said. , as per HT.

However, while for females (the observed pattern) was highly significant across regions, for males the trend was only directional but not significant in South Asia, according to the study. Indian Express.

Additionally, the researchers noted that the relationship between mental well-being at ages 18-24 and age of first smartphone use was significant even among participants without traumatic or adverse childhood experiences.

‚ÄúPicking up on the phone early means more mental health problems as an adult, particularly suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others and a sense of detachment from reality; overall a poorer sense of “social self,” or how one sees oneself and relates to others, said Sapien Labs founder Dr. Tara Thiagarajan TOI.

READ ALSO: Is screen addiction real?

Why is studying important?

According to Dr Thiagarajan, these findings suggest that there are long-term improvements in mental well-being for every year of delay in getting a smartphone in childhood.

It is important that we continue to study this relationship and work to develop effective policies and interventions that can support healthy mental development in the digital age to reverse the declining trends we have been following, said the neuroscientist. Indian Express.

The study becomes more important for India, where 83% of children aged 10-14 use smartphones, more than the international average of 76%. TOI reported citing McAfee’s Global Connected Family study from last year.

Shailender Swaminathan, director of Sapien Labs Center for the Human Brain and Mind, India, said HT file in a statement: This report makes a major contribution in shaping our understanding of the role of early access to technology in influencing mental health outcomes for children and young people. The findings have significant implications for schools, parents, employers and others in India, which is home to more than 200 million young people in the 15-25 age group.

With contributions from agencies

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