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More Sleep, Less Social Media: The Surprising Ways Quarantine Has Affected Teen Mental Health




Triplets (L to R) Mickaël, Sylvain and Pascal pose on June 10, 2013 in front of their laptops in their home in Sirac (Gers), southern France.
Triplets (L to R) Mickaël, Sylvain and Pascal pose on June 10, 2013 in front of their laptops in their home in Sirac (Gers), southern France.
ERIC CABANIS/AFP via Getty Images

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Virtual school, missed rights-of-passage and family with jeopardized health or finances— for many teenagers, the COVID-19 pandemic has put them through circumstances unlike anything else they’ve experienced.

However, according to a new study, young people are not struggling as much as one would expect. The number of teens that reported feeling lonely or depressed in 2020 was actually lower than it was in 2018. This despite the fact that nearly a third of teens surveyed knew someone diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than a quarter had a parent who had lost a job. Why the relatively rosy results?

For one, teens are getting more sleep than they did before the pandemic without the extra commute time before school every morning. Young people are also reporting more time with family, less time on social media, and more time with stress-relieving technology, like video streaming services. American adults in the spring of 2020, on the other hand, were three times more likely to report depression, distress or anxiety than adults over the past two years (these numbers rose even more after the police killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests in the summer).

And not all teenagers evaded depression— among young people worried about whether their families had enough to eat, 33 percent were depressed, as opposed to 14 percent of teens who were not worried about food insecurity. 

Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about mental health and teenagers. We’re joined by Dr. Jean Twenge, lead author of the study “Teens in Quarantine: Mental Health, Screen Time, and Family Connection.” Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.

Guest:

Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” (Simon and Schuster, August 2017); she is lead author of the study “Teens in Quarantine: Mental Health, Screen Time, and Family Connection” ; she tweets @jean_twenge