By: Jennifer Lonergan
Next week, October 7th-13th, is Mental Health Awareness Week. Now, if you are from my generation, chances are you don’t think this applies to you. But the truth is, mental health is for everyone.
When I was growing up, anything related to mental health involved institutions and asylums unless it impacted your family directly. Thankfully though, through brave people sharing their stories, the stigma is slowly beginning to lift as we address mental health as an issue that applies to every one of us. Everything from the uptick in mass shootings, where shooters obviously did not receive the mental health help they needed, to the climb in teenage self-harm associated with screens and social media, the rise in anxiety and depression has reached epidemic proportions
As a parent, the awareness I am honed in on is what applies to me and my home. This is what brought me to the danger of screen time. A recent study published in Greater Good Magazine showed that nearly half of teens who said that they spend five or more hours a day on a screen, said they had contemplated, planned, or attempted suicide. To say, “This was eye opening to me,” is an understatement. It shocked me to my core to think that something I gave them, that they were using under my very nose, in the safety and security of our own home, showed such a strong correlation to self-harm.
And it’s not just kids and their phones, it’s adults too. How many times have your children come to talk to you and you’re already on the phone? It doesn’t matter the reason, even if you are solving the world’s problems. Do you stop and put it away and give them your undivided attention? Or do you handle the entire situation without so much as a glance at them? What does this say to the them?
It says, whatever is happening on your phone is more important than them. They learn this and place the same importance on their phone. This leads to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression. Between not giving them the attention they need and deserve, to turning to a screen for feelings of self-worth, and self validation, there is an obvious cycle that produces poor mental health for the entire family.
Never in my dreams would I have considered just watching a regular television screen quality screen time. But now, watching a movie with my husband and my children, cozy on our couch with no phones in the room feels like a luxury. Taking that to the next level, I am striving for board games, card games, and ( do I even dare?!) a puzzle.
We as parents need to foster those feeling of self-worth back to a relationship with us. Conversations, experiences and shared memories of love and laughter will do more to maintain a healthy mental balance with your child than any app could ever provide.