New Tool May Help Solve the Teen Mental Health Crisis

New Tool May Help Solve the Teen Mental Health Crisis

As rates of mental health issues in teens reach epidemic proportions, a new intervention that reframes the way they view stressors shows great promise in improving both psychological and physiological health.

Given the exponentially growing mental health crisis among teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with several other medical organizations, recently declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.

While many societal factors are being implicated, researchers at the University of Rochester recently conducted a study that focused on the ordinary, day-to-day stresses that teens face, such as how they’re perceived by others.

Psychologist Jeremy Jamieson, who headed up the study, told the University of Rochester News Center, “For adolescents, social hierarchy, social comparisons, and peer evaluations have always been important, but now it’s there all the time… people are receiving a daily stream of likes, dislikes, and comments via social media, which makes for a constant state of social evaluation. it’s one of the most damaging things we’ve seen for adolescents.”

While these “social-evaluative stressors” can lead directly to depression and anxiety, it is how teens deal with them, experts say, that determines the psychological outcome.

While conventional thinking equates stress with something “bad,” Jamieson says, “stress is a normal and even defining feature of adolescence… for those of us who study processes and psychophysiology, stress is just any demand for change — it’s neither good nor bad.”

And when teens avoid stress, experts say, they lose out on the opportunity to grow from the unavoidable situations that cause it.

The intervention developed by Jamieson and his colleagues was informed by the idea that how we respond to stress can either lead to mental health issues or to resilience.

Consisting of a 30-minute online training module, the intervention takes a “stress optimization” approach defined in the study as, “Learning to engage positively with rigorous but useful social and academic stressors, rather than seeking indiscriminately to minimize or avoid stress.”

The self-administered online training works by helping teens develop what researchers call “synergistic mindsets.” The first is a growth mindset, which is the idea that one’s intelligence can be developed in response to a challenge. 

The other is what the researchers call a “stress-can-be-enhancing mindset.” This is the idea that one’s physiological stress responses, such as sweaty palms and racing heart,  are not only not harmful, but can actually enhance one’s performance in challenging situations.

Researchers administered the intervention to a large group of adolescents and found that it dramatically improved biological responses, psychological well-being, and academic performance. Given how simple the intervention is, researchers see huge potential in large-scale implementation and are planning further trials.

The key takeaway, says Jamieson, is that this approach is, “Teaching people about how stress can be useful. That’s a really big, novel idea for a lot of people. Stress is typically not seen as something that is beneficial and adaptive, it’s seen as something that’s damaging. We’re really trying to work against that misconception.”

Investors Urge Apple To Curb Childhood Social Media Addiction

Investors Urge Apple To Curb Childhood Social Media Addiction

In an age where technology is becoming intrinsically connected to every aspect of our lives, some are starting to grow concerned about the increasingly younger age at which we introduce our children to smart phones and gadgets – including two of Apple’s biggest investors.

In a Jan. 6 letter sent to Apple from investors Jana Partners and The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the shareholders expressed concern over childhood addiction to social media and electronic devices. The two groups urged Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help ensure that kids use the company’s products in an “optimal manner.”

The letter acknowledged the pervasiveness of Apple products among children and teenagers, and the unintentional negative consequences that may be coming from the omnipresence of social media in young people’s lives.

 

the smart generation

 

The letter likely comes in response to viral videos of a former Facebook vice president who has been vociferous in his regret for the role he played perpetuating social media’s impact on our society. A number of media outlets have posted videos of Chamath Palihapitiya, former VP for user growth at Facebook, for his comments stating that social media is destroying society with dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Jana Partners LLC, a hedge fund started by activist investor Barry Rosenstein, touts itself as being an actively engaged shareholder that specializes in event-driven investing. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System is the largest educator-only pension fund in the world that represents nearly a million public school educators. Together the two investors own a $2 billion stake in Apple.

The investors’ letter to Apple cited a number of statistics showing the negative impact that the role of social media and technology has on youth. It says that in the past 3 to 5 years since personal technology has entered the classroom, 90 percent of teachers said the number of students with emotional challenges has increased and 86 percent of teachers said that the number of students with social challenges has increased.

The letter also pointed to increased rates of depression, sleep deprivation, and suicide risk factors in children and teenagers spending significant time on social media and electronic devices.

In response, Apple has promised to introduce new features and tools to help parents and teachers curb the extensive use and addiction to these technologies.

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