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Building Happier: FOMO And Mental Health Among Teens and Adults

I was having difficulty connecting with my teen son last week. I realize that this is a familiar parent-adolescent communication issue in general, but it was definitely a change in pattern. I texted him and called him, but he didn’t pick up. After having this go on for a few days, I was a bit irritated. I sat him down to ask what the disconnect (literally) was.

Thoughtfully, he looked at me and said “It’s too much- the phone is sometimes too much. Texts, social media notifications, calls- it is overwhelming and I’m tired.” So, he decided that for blocks at a time, he would simply turn on the Do Not Disturb function on his iOS (iPhone Operating System). That way he can actually focus, be engaged in real person-to-person communication, and have moments of peace, aka self-care.

He’s not alone in feeling the anxiety that our phones bring these days. Over the past 4-5 years, there has been increasing research showing the association of social media use with anxiety and depression, particularly in the teenage group. There are many reasons that this could be true; waiting for reactions to posts or checking for “likes” and messages, can trigger the same dopamine response as certain substance dependencies. This can lead to an almost addictive need to check the phone, and 50% of teenagers are constantly on social media.

Additionally, many teens use the phone late into the night, and feel the need to check the phone at night for texts as well as notifications. These actions disrupt sleep which can lead to less focus and an increased risk for depression and anxiety.

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