What the Tech? Teen suicide and social media
The teenage suicide rate is up and shows no sign of slowing down.
The Centers for Disease Control says the number of teenagers going to the emergency room with suicidal thoughts has more than doubled in recent years. Depression and stress are likely causes.
When you see reports on teenage suicide and depression, you cannot help but wonder what role the internet plays in all that.
Access to social media is perhaps the biggest difference in the lives of middle schoolers from how their parents grew up.
"When we were kids, we played outside. We did physical things, just running around, things like that."
Not many kids play that way today. They're plugged in, sharing photos, comments and likes within the apps on their phones. There's pressure to gain followers and likes. It's stressful.
"On social media, it's a lot easier to say rude things, mean things that kids take personally, and that may have something to do with it."
Pew Research Center suggests as many as 59% of teenagers have experienced some form of cyberbullying.
Not only physical threats but name calling, spreading false rumors and receiving explicit images they did not ask for.
"A bully can be invisible, and a bully can be anybody and a bully can be your best friend," family counselor Jason Gibson said. That makes it nearly impossible for today's kids to stop worrying about when they might be bullied again."
"It doesn't matter where you are, you're always available and open when somebody wants to do hurtful things," Gibson said.
What can parents do in response? Understand what today's kids are dealing with, not just every day but every hour. If you have young children who don't have social media accounts yet or a smartphone, hold off until your child is at least 14 years old before giving them one.
According to the CDC's study, 43% of the visits to the hospital for suicidal thoughts were by children between the ages of 5 and 11.