‘Most mentally healthy [adult] respondents are those who did not get a telephone until their late teens,’ wrote the psychologists
Early smartphone use is associated with decreased mental health in adulthood, according to analysis by top psychologists of the world’s largest mental health database.
The younger the age you get your first smartphone, the worse the mental health the young adult reports today, psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt and research assistant Zach Rausch wrote in a post on the Haidts blog, After Babel.
This is true across all regions studied,” they wrote. “Relationships are consistently stronger for women.”
We’re probably setting up students and teachers to fail when we leave decisions about device use, particularly when it comes to highly addictive apps designed to keep users engaged for as long as possible, to individual students, Rausch said. The college fix in an email.
As teens swapped their flip phones for smartphones with social media, we started to see a spike in adolescent mental illness, particularly among girls, Rausch said.
The non-profit research foundation Sapien Labs has released the data analyzed by Haidt and Rausch.
The Global Mind Project, Sapien’s flagship research initiative, “has created the world’s largest database of comprehensive mental health profiles along with demographics, lifestyle, and life experience factors of the Internet-enabled population,” according to its website.
“The database now contains the profiles of over 1 million internet-enabled people in over 65 countries and 9 languages, along with demographic, lifestyle and life experience factors,” the website states. “Over 2,000 new profiles are added every day.”
The company released a report last month that focused on a question it asked young adults aged 18-24 in January: At what age did you get your smartphone or tablet (e.g. iPad) with internet access that you could bring with you?
The researchers analyzed reported reports of mental functioning in detail, including mood and outlook, adaptability and resilience, drive and motivation, according to the report.
When the researchers plot age of first smartphone use “on the X-axis versus their large set of mental health questions on the Y-axis, they find a consistent pattern,” Rausch and Haidt wrote on Haidt’s blog.
The sooner you access your smartphone, the worse your mental well-being.
“Respondents who got their first smartphone before age 10 are doing worse, on average, than those who didn’t get one until their teens,” wrote Haidt and Rausch.
“The most mentally healthy respondents are those who didn’t get a phone until their late teens.”
These findings have important implications for parents, K-12 school heads, and lawmakers who are currently considering bills to raise the minimum age or require age verification for certain types of sites (particularly social media and pornography ), they wrote.
Psychologists have also addressed the problem of age restrictions imposed. Currently, no law applies when children can give their personal information to companies on the Internet.
However, according to Haidt and Rausch, “there is one federal bill that does a particularly good job of focusing on age restrictions and age verification.”
The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by two Democrats and two Republicans, would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps and require parental consent for kids between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. press release from Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, co-sponsor of the bill.
“The bill would also prevent social media companies from serving content using algorithms to users under the age of 18,” according to the release.
“There is much that can be done…to address one of the major fears parents express about their children’s safety and health,” concluded Haidt and Rausch.
MORE: Unplugged Scholarship Offers College Students $5K to Give Up Smartphones
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