Teens today are much lonelier than ever. Parents and all concerned caregivers need to understand why Teens are suffering from the loneliness epidemic.
According to a new study, teen loneliness rates have surged since 2010, the year the smartphone came into widespread use. One of the reasons for this is because teens are having less face time with their friends. This lack of connection is adding to the feeling of loneliness. In reality, today’s young adults and teenagers, also known as Gen Z have many virtual friends but very few real connections to boast of.
What Has Changed?
One of the main changes is that teens today compared with previous decades, spend less physical time with their friends. They are less likely to go out with friends, build relationships or even go out on dates. Increasingly, they are alone in their bedrooms scrolling through Instagram or other social media platforms of their choice.
While they are more connected to more people, you cannot replace the importance of human face to face connection and real-life connections. There is something about being around another person — touch, eye contact, laughter. The need for physical touch cannot be replaced by digital communication.
Study after study has found that teens today spend less time with their friends in person and more time communicating digitally, which is associated with mental health issues. According to a survey carried out by BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind in collaboration with Wellcome Collection they found five main characteristics of being lonely. They are
- Having nobody to talk to
- Feeling disconnected from the world
- Feeling left out
- Not feeling understood
Loneliness – Teens versus the Elderly
In sharp contrast to the general opinion that elders feel more lonely as they age, the survey results showed that 40 per cent of people aged 16-24 say they feel lonely often or very often, compared to 29 per cent of 65-74-year-olds. And compared to just 27 per cent of those aged over 75. The younger ones are feeling lonelier.
The results also found out that those who report feeling the loneliest tended to have more ‘online only’ friends.
Science has long shown a direct correlation between loneliness and poor health. Half of the respondents who rarely have in-person interactions are in fair/poor overall health, while just 12 per cent of those who have daily in-person interactions are in fair/poor overall health.
According to Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, parents can help their teens along by encouraging them to have face to face interactions. “Teens hanging out with their friends are not wasting their time,” she says. “Encourage them to get together with their friends face-to-face — and to put away their phones while doing it.
A Parental software control app such as Qustodio can set limits on screen time usage.
Other things parents can do are to encourage their teens to beat the loneliness epidemic are –
- Sleep. People who get enough sleep, not too much and not too little reportedly, have lower loneliness scores. The benefits of sleep are major for everyone and especially teens.
- Quality Family Time. Teens who reportedly spend more quality time with their family report feeling connected to their family and friends.
- Exercise. People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely.
How Social Media Plays a Part in Loneliness
According to a study by Childline, Children are surrounded by hundreds of “friends” online, but they are lonelier than ever before.
Feeling left out on social media can lead teens to feel isolated. Childline reports an increase in the number of children contacting them about loneliness – and nearly 80 per cent of those calls are from girls.
Children as young as 10 are suffering from FOMO and report that watching their friends socialising on social media without them increased their feelings of feeling left out and adds to their feelings of loneliness.
A mum shared that her 14-year-old daughter was in tears because a group of her friends had gone out and shared pictures on Instagram, but they hadn’t invited her. She had a hard time consoling her. And this is the reality of our children today – the iGen generation.
Often, children are not able to separate reality from what they see online. Most people online are putting their best foot forward and looking like they’re having way more fun than they actually are. While this might be true, in the moment of a teenagers’despair they cannot reason this way.
All they see is being left out.
One of the most important things parents can do is to have open lines of communication with their children. Let them talk to you and share how they are feeling. If you notice changes in them be sure to broach the conversation lightly and encourage them to talk.[Read: More on How to Say No to Suicide] for more on Technology and Parenting read here.