There is a myth doing the rounds claiming that modern digital technology is causing teen anxiety rewiring their brains. The teenagers become worried, anxious and they fail to focus due to the effects of digital technology that comes in different forms.
The condition is known as anxiety, and it is characterized by factors like fear, restlessness, worry, and lack of focus. The exact causes of anxiety are not clear though there is a general belief that a combination of different factors can cause it.
Demystifying The Myth Of Anxiety
According to Dr. Friedman, there is little evidence to support an outbreak of anxiety disorders among teenagers. Despite a great talk that new technology is affecting the brains of the youth, there is also little evidence to support this claim.
The last comprehensive survey about psychiatric disorders among young Americans was conducted more than ten years ago. This information was revealed by Kathleen Ries Merikangas who heads the Epidemiology Research Branch at the Institute of Mental Health. At the moment, there are no facts to support the idea that new technology causes anxiety among youths.
The other important issue is that there are very few surveys that report cases of increased anxiety in adolescents. These studies depend on individual assessments. The measures used mainly detected mild symptoms of anxiety. They do not provide enough details about syndromes that are clinically important in assessing the level of concern.
As a result, the self-reported measures to determine anxiety seem to overestimate the rate of disorders. Since there is no clinical evidence to support the idea of an increase in tension, it might not be correct to say that new technology causes the condition. Such a claim should depend on factual data derived from a credible study.
It is not correct to pass an opinion as a fact since it lacks empirical evidence. A variety of studies about different healthcare issues exist and they are backed by evidence. It seems there is little data to support the notion that anxiety can be a result of new technology.
What Is Driving The Idea Of Increasing Anxiety Among Teenagers?
Stories are circulating that modern digital technology is significantly contributing to mental health disorders among teenagers. Anxiety is a condition that is caused by excessive use of new digital technology by teenagers.
Epidemiological surveys are yet to be conducted to prove the authenticity of how new technology causes anxiety disorders among youths. As it stands, no such study exists to determine that there is a link between anxiety disorder and excessive use of gadgets like smartphones as well as video games among other things.
Until the time when such studies exist, it remains an opinion that lacks valid evidence to support any link between anxiety disorders and technology. Indeed, there has been a widespread increase in the use of new technology by teenagers over recent years. However, this does not translate into an increase in anxiety disorders among the same group.
The other issue likely fuelling this claim about new technology causing anxiety is based on demographic factors. Some people believe that teenagers from privileged families show signs of anxiety disorder and these have a close link to their excessive use of digital technology.
Since these teenagers belong to affluent groups in different societies, they get significant media attention. The media is a powerful tool in setting the agenda in different communities. As a result, the claim that digital technology affects the youths is passed on as the truth even without evidence.
However, many people now take it as the fact that new technology can negatively affect their children. Some parents are worried that it is becoming increasingly difficult to restrain their kids from obsessive behavior to new technology such as smartphones.
It seems some parents have bought the idea spread by the media that smartphones, in particular, are psychologically damaging. If you believe this assertion, you can also think that future generations will suffer from different psychological problems. These are the same people growing up using these technologies, but the idea again is far-fetched.
Technology is not designed to destroy but to improve the welfare of the users. There is no way people can say that new digital technology is impacting on their lives. Some studies believed to be the brains behind this notion of digital technology causing anxiety also have some limitations.
Analysis Of What Some Studies Say About New Technology And Anxiety
Different studies report a link between the time an individual spends on communication technology and reduced psychological well-being. In other words, more time spent behind the screens is likely to affect your mental status. The study shows only correlation, and it is possible that anxious kids can spend more time on smartphones.
Teenagers who are anxious and unhappy are likely to use smartphones as a way of escaping from their negative emotions. In contrast, another research shows that smartphones can cause anxiety, but they can also significantly help to avoid it. Some teenagers can overcome their fears through the use of new technology to perform various tasks.
The study does not explicitly state how this can be possible, but some youth seem to be comfortable with their smart gadgets when they are anxious. Like other researches related to this subject, there is little evidence to support claims made in all scenarios.
Another study shows that there is more data about depression in teenagers due to smartphone adoption than anxiety. In her book called “iGen,” Twenge outlines different studies that show a link between social media and unhappiness. The author says the excessive use of social media can cause an increase in mental health issues in teenagers. However, more research should be conducted to get more data that can prove this claim.
Other studies used M.R.I. to examine the extent to which the youths addicted to the internet shows various functional and structural differences. One study reported some changes in different brain regions among a group of 17 teenagers addicted to online gaming. The control group did not show any change.
The study does not explicitly state whether the brain abnormalities were directly caused by excessive internet use. The chances of pre-existing risk factors to the changes cannot be ruled out which shows the limitations of the studies. This notion is supported by research which states that anxious children existed long before social media.
Social media is quite a new concept, but the issues of anxious kids were there before its widespread adoption. All the same, some parents continue to show worries that that social media affects their children. Some teenagers also agree that social media is making them “crazy,” but there is no clinically tested data to show a link with anxiety.
Are Smartphones Addictive Like Drugs?
The other issue that can dispel the myth of digital technology causing anxiety among teens relates to the aspect of addiction. From a literal perspective, can smartphones be said to be addictive like drugs? Some M.R.I. Studies show that the brains of kids addicted to online gaming have enhanced activation.
Their reward pathway is quickly activates meaning that brains are turned on when they see different images of gaming. The claim here is not a surprise since any human being can be turned on after seeing something of great interest. Different people can be turned on by things like chocolate or some erotic images, but that does not necessarily mean addiction.
Drugs make lasting changes to the brain that are not easy to reverse, and this is called addiction. It is difficult for an addicted person to quit the habit quickly. Such people usually go through life-threatening withdrawal stages if they cannot get their drugs or alcohol.
However, there is little evidence to show that a person can be addicted to a smartphone. If you withdraw a smartphone from a teenager, he or she does not display similar conditions to a drug addict. You only witness a sad face of someone who needs the device back not an emergency scenario.
There is no reason for some parents to continue insisting that new digital technology can cause anxiety on their teenagers. No clinical evidence that supports this claim exists. What some parents refer to as anxiety is just a shift that reflects different levels of distress every day.
The Other Side Of Anxiety
Anxiety disorder significantly differs from common anxiety, and you should understand the significance of the difference. Anxiety disorder is not functional since it affects the individual’s ability to function well. When the anxiety becomes excessive, you can hardly concentrate, and the result is withdrawal.
You would rather stay away from other people, and this level of anxiety is not good for your mental health. When anxiety reaches such an extreme level, it can affect the quality of your life, and you may also fail to achieve your desired goals.
Everyday anxiety is perfectly normal, and it is good for your well-being. Whether you are a teenager or an adult, it is very reasonable to be anxious occasionally. When you are worried, your body releases a hormone called adrenaline, and this helps you to be alert.
Therefore, when you are anxious, your body can detect as well as avoid dangerous situations. If you live in a hazardous environment, you are eager most of the time. In other words, anxiety gives you good reaction time to threatening situations.
Young people, in particular, can be worried about different life situations like challenges in getting desired jobs. It is normal to be anxious as you grow up and face new things in your life. Such a scenario cannot be referred to as a mental disorder since it is just an appropriate response to things taking place around you.
Anxiety Disorder And Causes
There are different types of anxiety disorders that include social anxiety, a compulsive disorder as well as post-traumatic disorder. While the exact cause of anxiety is not apparent, there is a general belief that fear is the primary driving force behind this condition. Anxiety also causes you to be restless, and you are worried most of the time. As a result, your mental health is affected.
According to a study about why American teenagers suffer from severe anxiety, its actual cause is not apparent. Surprisingly, many high school students continue to suffer from anxiety. As teenagers grow up, their brains go through different changes. Fear of failure in their studies characterizes some.
Anxiety is just a common condition, and it becomes severe when the condition impacts on the mental status. Different individuals know their fears, and these cannot be attributed to modern digital technology as claimed by other studies.
There are also other studies that attribute the lack of socialization as the other factor that contributes to anxiety. You become anxious if you grow up in a family that does not seem to care about your concerns as a kid. A sense of fear develops if you regularly witness unpleasant things while you are still young.
Some teenagers are likely to develop anxiety due to the way they were brought up. Young people who experience bullying when they are in middle-high school are anxious compared to others who do not experience the same. Victims of cyberbullying are also anxious, and they often withdraw themselves from the public.
Anxiety is a widespread mental health issue that affects nearly all age groups in the United States. The condition is usually not considered as a serious problem compared to depression. It is viewed as a mental disorder when it becomes severe and affects your mental health.
The exact cause of severe anxiety is not clear, but different factors are attributed to it. Modern digital technology, in this case, cannot be said to be a cause of severe anxiety among teenagers as claimed by other reports. There is no clinical evidence to support the claim hence parents should not worry about the behavior of their kids towards smartphones.