Teenage Mental Health in the 21st Century Part 2

In the first blog of this series about Teenage Mental Heath, we looked into areas such as brain development and the importance of educating teenagers around managing their minds.
In this blog, we look at life in the digital age and explore both the benefits as well the potential impact on mental health.
In the last 10 years, things have changed beyond recognition as young people grow up in the digital age. A major factor to consider is the way information is consumed and our ability to communicate 24 hours a day at the touch of a button. Generation Z, born between mid 1990’s and 2010, have grown up ‘the mobile generation’, not knowing life without IOS, Android and Windows.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he talked about the first layer of human needs being shelter, food, warmth, water and sleep. The reality is do we now need to add in Wifi?… I am joking but actually how long before this is a reality?
Surely one of the biggest benefits of the digital revolution has been accessibility of information empowering people through self education. For example, I’ve been able to research teenage mental health by Googling the topic and reading articles on the latest findings; I’ve watched a scientist speak at TED on YouTube and I’ve listened to leading experts on a BBC Podcast. I am also writing this blog digitally on WordPress and then will share my findings across various social media channels.
Think about medical advancements where we can now digitally scan the body and robots carry out operations which require the highest level of accuracy. Think about the development of 0% emission cars. If we are to find an answer to the global warming created in the 20th century, surely it will be through technology in the 21st century.
Think about the power of social media though giving people a voice and connecting long lost friends or Skype enabling us to speak to family and friends around the world.
Like anything in life, there are always downsides we need to be aware of. One particularly area is young people’s well-being and mental health.
Educationist, Ken Robinson, talks about the simultaneously rise of conditions such as ADHD, in parallel with young people being besieged with information.

Information is now being delivered direct to young people via smart phones at home, in school, on the bus, out with friends, at the restaurant and in the car, as well as crucially when off to sleep.
Professor Paul Gringras from Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, recently talked about smart phones affecting sleep patterns. This is caused because as it gets darker in the evening, the body starts to produce the sleep hormone Melatonin which helps people nod off. Certain wavelengths of light, those at the blue-green end of the spectrum which mobile phones produce, can disrupt the system.
So what is the answer?  We can’t ban mobile phones. Surely it is about educating young people and empowering them to self educate by using the tools in their hands.
A recent study by Glasgow University study around the high use of social media by teenagers and the potential link to mental health issues because lack of sleep. In the study, Dr Cleland Woods from the University said: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this”. By young people understanding how their minds functions, they are empowered to make their own choices.
My experience of working with young  people is they understand the importance of mental health and are keen to learn and explore. What they might need support with is finding relevant and factual information, that is accessible and easy to understand. We can support young people to make the right decisions but as we know telling teenagers what to do isn’t the answer.
On that note, I will leave you with a quote from Nelson Mandela, a quote that I found via Google, saved to my PC, posted online and shared on social media!


Post by Jack Hoyle

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