A Discussion on the Impact of the Internet on Teen Depression

The Internet plays a huge role in our lives, but it could also play a huge role in depression. There is strong evidence to believe the Internet can contribute to depression, or even make you depressed. One of these factors includes social media, such as Facebook or Instagram. Another factor is that the Internet replaces face-to-face communication. Teens are at the highest risk for Internet depression especially because their social life revolves around the Internet. These factors also may contribute to mental health problems down the road.

In order to understand how the Internet can affect your mind, one must begin with understanding depression. An article posted by the University of Maryland Medical Center, which was reviewed by Harvey Simon, M.D., Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, defines depression as: “a mood disorder in which overwhelming feelings of sadness, loss of pleasure, guilt, and hopelessness interfere with daily life. People with depression also suffer from sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and low energy, changes in appetite, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

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While depression may have easy symptoms to notice, many people tend to overlook them. Depression can also be genetic, but a study at Stanford University School of Medicine, conducted by Douglas F. Levinson, M.D.and Walter E. Nichols, M.D., Professor in the School of Medicine, says that there is no way to be sure. However, if depression runs in your family, it is likely that you will have depression as well. While families can pass depression by genetics, depression can be the effect of environmental influences, such as the Internet.

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People or family members who suffer from depression can influence adolescents around them, who have the highest risk for depression in general. The University of Maryland School of Science says, “Studies suggest that 3 – 5% of children and adolescents suffer from clinical depression, and 10 – 15% have some depressive symptoms.” Depression is not only the result of poor family dynamics or circumstances because hormones are also contributors. Hormones play a role in early onset depression because the mind is still developing during puberty. Now that we have a better idea of what depression is and whom it affects, we can apply this knowledge to understand the types of studies performed. These studies are set up to further understand the relationship between the Internet and depression.

A study at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney, attempted to further understand the relationship between the Internet and depression, and they used adolescents as test subjects. This study involved 1,041 teens aged 13-18. At the start of the study, none of the teens screened positive for depression. After being on the Internet six hours a day over the course of a few months, 84 percent reported back with depression. “Results suggested that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the Internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence,” one of the professors quoted to NY Daily News. Even though the study only took place over a few months, the numbers showed a sharp increase of depression among the Internet-users. The method of the study proves reliable, and the outcome of the method is persuasive that over-use of the Internet (six hours or more) can lead to depression. The Internet has a detrimental impact on people’s social lives. Studies at Yale show that scholars believe “Internet communication is an impoverished and sterile form of social exchange compared to traditional face-to-face interactions, and will therefore produce negative outcomes (loneliness and depression) for its users” (Bargh, McKenna, 3). Face-to-face communication involves facial expressions, tone of voice, and reactions at that moment. The facial expressions over the Internet are non-existent; there is no tone of voice, and although someone may be smiling from reading the text message or email, it is not the same when a “smiley-face” is sent through an email or text. Overall, the Internet is not a good replacement for face-to-face communication. Two researchers set out with a question. They wanted to know if “obsessive Internet use could lead to mental health problems in people who are otherwise healthy?” (Times). This study, conducted by epidemiologists Lawrence Lam and Zi-Wen-Peng, pulled together 1,000 high school students.

Lam and Peng analyzed the students over a period of nine months, and found that 2.5% of the students measured for anxiety and depression. Although 2.5% seems like a low number, it is actually a big number in this study because 2.5% is equal to 250 people. That is how many teens can get depressed from using the Internet too much in one period of time. As said earlier, teens are at high risk for depression, but adding in the Internet could lead them to an even more severe level of depression. When people think about how long they spend on their computer or on the Internet, they usually do not realize what that number actually is. “Today’s teens spend more than 7 12 hours a day consuming media — watching TV, listening to music, surfing the Web, social networking, and playing video games, according to a 2010 study of 8- to 18-year-olds conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation” (Abuja). Two-thirds of the day is consumed by teens using media, and only paying attention to their phones. “Peer acceptance is big thing for adolescents, and many of them care about their image as much as a politician running for office, and to them it can feel as serious. … When kids scroll through their feeds and see how great everyone seems, it only adds to the pressure” (Ehmke). Peer pressure is a big consequence of social media. As stated above, teens feel pressured to show themselves in a certain way. They are constantly changing their image to fit what everyone else seems to be, but risk losing their identity along the way. The constant pressure can lower their self-esteem, which can lead to depression.

The Internet has many downsides, but one positive thing about social media is that it connects people. The American Academy of Pediatrics found: …that social media encourage kids to connect with each other and to express their creativity. They also provide an opportunity for learning, and are a way for teens to access health information. And, kids that have chronic illnesses can find others with their condition and get support they might not otherwise have access to. (Gordon) Essentially, use of the Internet can help with learning and creativity, while also bringing groups of people together. Ultimately, teens have the control over what they do and how they use the Internet. If a teen or a parent monitors their activity, the negative effects will diminish and they can focus on the good side of social media. Research at the University of Cambridge shows growth in Internet-guided interventions for treatment of mental disorders. Findings from independent studies show the different types of self-help researched for depression and anxiety. The Internet can lead to depression especially because of the role that social media plays. The highest risk for depression is in adolescents because they are always using social media. Three studies show the effects of the Internet, where many of the teens tested did not screen for depression at the beginning of the study. At the end of the study, a large number of teens tested positive for depression. Studies have looked into relationships between Internet usage and depression, and many are looking for ways to help people become aware of depressive symptoms.

One study “is trying to develop a software that could be installed on home computers or mobile devices to monitor usage and send an alert when the usage pattern might signal symptoms of depression.” (NYTimes) The same study identified features of the Internet that related to depression. Statistics of that study show both groups, one with depressive symptoms and one without, the group with depressive symptoms had a specific style of Internet behavior. Technology also produces “flow duration entropy”, this occurs when there is constant switching between applications. Constant switching reduces concentration, which is a symptom of depression. Psychologists Janet Morahan-Martin and Phyllis Schumacher explain that checking e-mail may cause high levels of anxiety, another symptom of depression. Sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter should log the amount of hours spent on social media and after a certain amount of time, should close the site. This means that teens will only have a certain number of hours on each site. It also means that teens would be more careful and creative with how they spend time on their phones and on social media. If sites do not take this recommendation, people will have more ‘friends’ online and face-to-face communication will be lost. Young adults’ mental health would decline because the negative effects of the Internet will grow. Unless we figure out a way to curb Internet use, future generations will be more depressed because technology keeps evolving. If it’s this bad now, it will be worse in future generations.

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A Discussion on the Impact of the Internet on Teen Depression. (2022, Feb 27). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-discussion-on-the-impact-of-the-internet-on-teen-depression-essay

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