Skip to main content
Smartphones Increasing Emotional Health Problems in Teens

You are listening to Healthy Kids Zone:

Smartphones Increasing Emotional Health Problems in Teens

Apr 02, 2018

There has been a significant increase in emotional health problems among American teenagers since the adoption of smartphones. Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner discusses the science and impact of smartphones on teenagers. And she also talks about the link between modern technology and our children’s emotional health.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Gellner: Technology for teens can be a good thing, but it can also cause a lot of new problems. Since smartphones came out, there's been a big increase in emotional issues in teens. Is this a coincidence? I'll discuss teens and technology on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering The Healthy Kid Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: A new study by psychologists has many of us concerned. It says that the happiness, self-esteem, and life satisfaction of teens has been significantly impacted by the use of social media. Until 2011, it seems teen happiness was on the rise as it had been for a few decades. But from 2012 to 2016, there was a sharp decline. By 2013, 37% of teens had a smartphone, and by 2016, 73% of teens had one.

It seems that teens who spend more time on electronic communication through social media, texting, and video games are less happy with their lives and had lower self-esteem. Ask any teen that has a Facebook or Instagram account and they will tell you that everyone else has a better life than they do. They see their friends post things and they think, "My friend is so pretty. My friend gets to do so much cool stuff. Everyone looks like they're having the best day ever all the time." If you think about it, even us adults, we're guilty of thinking the same things.

Previous generations of teens had magazines that gave unrealistic views of body size, success, beauty, but now teens are bombarded every waking moment, it seems, by images of impossible standards. With social media, teens can post what they want on their feeds showing only the best pictures of themselves having the best experiences while hiding the struggles of everyday life. With as much time as teens spend on their phones, it's no wonder that they think that others have it better. Not only are they seeing their friends do all these fabulous things, their friends, and even strangers, can comment on pictures and videos they post. Those who comment can build them up by saying how awesome something is or they can be critical.

Posts can be shared too, which then expands the number of people seeing what is posted. Kids don't always realize that when they post something, it's out there forever and out there for anyone to comment on. That's often how cyber bullying starts, with a single post. That leads to negative texts, which can lead to being bullied at school, which triggers anxiety and depression, and sadly, can even lead to suicide.

As parents, one thing you can do to help your teen is to make sure you are included in their social network. That way, you can see what others are saying about your child and you can report any cases of cyber bullying to the appropriate authorities. Be involved in your child's online life, whether they want you to be or not, because it could really save their life.

Announcer: Want The Scope delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email address at and click "Sign Me Up" for updates of our latest episodes. The Scope Radio is a production of University of Utah Health Sciences.

Announcer: Have a question about a medical procedure? Want to learn more about a health condition? With over 2,000 interviews with our physicians and specialists, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find what you want to know. Check it out at