What does the year 2010 and the increase in mental health issues of children have in common? You can probably guess from the title of this blog that it is Smartphones. In an article on the website for U.K.'s The Telegraph, one of the country's foremost psychotherapists explains that in 2010, "I saw my work increase by a mad amount and so did others I work with. Suddenly everything got much more dangerous, much more immediate, much more painful."
Dr. Julie Lynn Evans explained that in the 1990s she might have one or two suicide attempts a year. Now that number has increased to around four per month. She reports that the access to the internet that comes with Smartphones has opened up a world of danger to our kids. These phones, in effect, allow predators easy access to impressionable young minds. Just consider that anything -- anything -- is available on the internet. Add to that, the reality that parental approval or supervision is unnecessary and rarely asked for, we are left with an unsupervised generation that is easily exploited.
We've all seen them ... the adult chat rooms, the pornography sites, the virtual reality rooms where anyone can disguise their real identity. Children wander into these sites, and spend unlimited amounts of time there, being sucked into dark places they are too inexperienced and unprepared to handle.
But it is not only pernicious sexual situations that are harming our kids. Dr. Evans says, "My clients are cutting their arms, thighs, shoulders and stomachs; they are exhibiting signs of seriously disordered eating, they are medicating fast and furiously, they are refusing to go to school, they are sleepless and scared. Some are depressed and anxious, some have conduct disorder and problems with authority, and some are simply terrified. My consulting room, and those of my colleagues, are full of children who are more dramatically unhappy than they were a decade ago."
As if that's not enough, kids are not developing healthy relationships because Smartphones don't encourage kindness, compassion, or ethics. Everything is instantaneous and no thought is given to consequences from an unkind or cruel remark. Bullying has become a constant companion for far too many kids. And parents are too busy on their Smartphones to notice the warning signs.
I have spent far too many instances with people who can't stay off their phones long enough to have a complete conversation or share a meal. Meanwhile, their kids are becoming zombies; glued to their phones and unable to communicate in any other meaningful way. That has to be affecting their brains, as well as their social skills and ability to solve problems on their own.
Once again, I find myself lamenting the rapid advancement of technology. Has it really improved our lives for the better? Sure, it has brought progress in medicine; helped us to organize our lives better; and expanded our knowledge base. We can find the answer to almost any question we have on the internet. But have the negative side effects outweighed the advantages? Have Facebook and Google advanced our culture, or just taken our attention away from real person-to-person dialogue? And have we given up our privacy and freedom from intrusion in our daily lives? Has it been worth it? Are we a healthier nation -- both mentally and physically?
I am just afraid that Smartphones have become an unnatural and abnormal lifeline for the youth of this nation. The devices provide a parent-free, unsupervised world in which they are losing their humanity. We were not created to live such isolated lives; and Smartphones cannot express human feelings, grant forgiveness, or experience the joy of human contact. What a perfect way for the Devil to entice our children into a life that lacks God's love. Yes, technology has made our lives easier, but are our kids paying the price?
To read more about the mental health issues conveyed by Dr. Julie Lynn Evans, please click here or here.
1 John 4:4 "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."