A new study found that teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless and are more likely to consider suicide. Researchers found a sudden increase in teens' symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular, says Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study.
Twenge's research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that's regardless of the content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time — not the specific content — goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.
"It's an excessive amount of time spent on the device. So half an hour, an hour a day, that seemed to be the sweet spot for teen mental health in terms of electronic devices," Twenge says. "At two hours a day there was only a slightly elevated risk. And then three hours a day and beyond is where you saw the more pronounced increase in those who had at least one suicide risk factor."