Increased use of smartphones is likely a major factor in the increase of depression and suicide cases among teenagers in the United States. According to a report authored by well-known psychologist Jean Ms. Twenge and published by The Atlantic, the number of teenagers committing suicide has drastically increased since smartphones were introduced. In fact, the number of teenagers who committed suicide was higher than the number of teen homicide cases in 2011. The jump in suicide cases can be traced back to the heavy use of social media, Ms. Twenge argues. A survey conducted among college students has shown that students who access Facebook more often tend to be unhappier. This trend is also observed among younger students who are heavy social media users; eighth-graders who open their accounts on Facebook, Snapchat, and other similar services have a higher risk of depression compared to their peers who join sports activities, attend religious services, or even spend more time doing homework, the report states.
This trend is attributed to the ability of social media services to emphasize the teenager's concern about being left out of their peer group. It is more often observed among people who spend more time online and see their friends less often. The hypothesis is that teenagers document their activities heavily through their accounts, which in turn can be viewed by people who are not invited or aware of the event. It ultimately results in an upswing of the feeling of being left out across different age and gender groups. Girls are twice more likely to feel that way compared to boys of the same age, according to the same report, which states that this may have also translated to a larger increase in suicide cases among 12 to 14-year-old girls.
Continued heavy use of social media has negatively impacted the sleeping habits of students, Ms. Twenge found. There is a substantial increase in the percentage of people who have been sleeping less than seven hours a night since 2007, which is when the first iPhone was released. The lack of sleep is connected with reduced capacity to think and reason coherently, susceptibility to physical illnesses, and an increased risk of depression, the report concludes.