Hattiesburg psychologist explains risk facing iGeneration

Hattiesburg psychologist explains risk facing iGeneration

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Recent research and studies are suggesting our youngest generation is facing a mental health crisis. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 American children ages 3 through 17 have a diagnosable mental, emotional or a behavioral disorder in a given year.

If you have paid attention to recent commentary and articles, you've likely heard alarming claims like this one from an interview on CNN between CNN TV Host Michael Smerconish and his guest, psychologist Jean Twenge:

"...the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades, " CNN TV Host, Michael Smerconish said.

A new book by Twenge called "iGen" argues the iGeneration, born between 1995 and 2012 during the release of smartphones, is facing a mental health crisis. She claimed the cause can be linked to growing up with their noses pressed against a screen. Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of Southern Behavioral Medicine Associates in Hattiesburg Dr. Geralyn Datz offered more insight into this issue and answers for parents.

"The entire iGen generation is not upset or depressed," Datz said.

Datz said she understands it's tempting for parents to listen to these headlines and feel worried your child's devices may be causing a mental health problem, but she said parents have to look beyond the eye-catching caption of a complicated issue.

"One of the issues of this research is it's correlational, so we don't know what is causing what," Datz said.

Meaning, some children who are depressed may be using technology as a way to isolate themselves. Or, children who have no issues could become depressed from viewing too much negativity on their screens.

"Or, have looked at things online like methods of suicide, or things like that. Those algorithms are gonna tailor that information right back to the individual in many different ways," Datz said.

She explained parents need to know researchers are basing their findings on a trend within this age group, meaning not every kid is affected. She said there could be other factors affecting a child or young adult who shows signs of depression or anxiety.

"Schools have more bullying, there are other issues within families, sometimes children are less supervised, there is less access to mental health care," Datz explained.

Datz said if you are a worried parent, try limiting your children's screen time and rely on some old fashion solutions.

"We need to increase conversation, social contact, physical activity, all of these things seem to go down in the group that was the highest tech users," Datz said.

Datz went on to add for parents or young adult concerned about smartphones' link to mental health issues, here are some statistics of those who are at risk.
She said those who had 40 hours a week or more of screen time saw a 25 percent increase in mental health issues. Those who spent the most amount of time on their phone are 70 percent likely to have suicide thoughts or actions.