Screen time is one factor in rise of teen suicide

Parental monitoring of screen time can help
Screen time is one factor in rise of teen suicide

With teen suicide rising rapidly in the last 10 years, access to smartphones and computers is being looked at as one factor associated with the problem.

“Screens have changed bullying and I think in one way they changed is through a broader audience,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, division chief for general pediatrics and adolescent medicine for UW Health.

Dr. Moreno has also conducted research looking at the intersection of social media and adolescent health.

“Screens are their venue for communication,” said Dr. Moreno.

But when the communication turns to bullying, because of screens a child can’t escape it, even in their own home.

“I have patients that I’ve seen for sleep difficulties and I find out that they are sleeping poorly because they set their alarm on the hour throughout the night to wake up, check their phone, make sure nobody’s posted something bad about them, and go back to bed,” said Dr. Moreno.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the last 10 years suicide rates for teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19, has doubled. For teenage boys between the ages of 15 and 19 the suicide rate has risen 30 percent.

“It is exceptionally difficult to come up with a single cause to explain something that is that complicated,” said Dr. Moreno.

But she says the more screen time a child is exposed to, the more it reduces their interaction with people and that’s not good for mental and physical health.

“I have this one piece of advice I would give to parents is treating that first smartphone the way I would treat a driver’s permit, and being present with your kid when they are interacting on the phone, being present when they set up their first social media profile.”

Dr. Moreno also recommends parents talk with their children about what types of communications they want to have, and to make sure the child knows the parent is there for them to talk to about any issues they have.

For more information about suicide prevention, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at: