Ugh, it’s True: Phones Actually Make Teens Unhappy

I’ve been talking to parents for years about the Impact of Social Media on Teens during my evening programs at our local schools. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about not only because I’m fascinated by the teen mind, but also because I’m a parent. And I’m concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and I love using technology. But we can’t fool ourselves into believing that just because it’s a technological advancement, that it doesn’t have harmful effects – especially on developing minds.

A recent article by Jean M. Twenge in The Atlantic highlights some startling results from research on how screens are affecting the “iGen” generation — that’s the current ‘Tweens and Teens we’re raising.

Here’s the quick summary of the important highlights:

  • The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27%.
  • Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.
  • Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.
  • Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media.
  • The number of teens who feel left out has reached all-time highs across age groups.


I’m not saying that you should take away your teen’s phone and lock it up, that’s not realistic. But what you do need to do is limit their time on it. It’s addicting, so they won’t put it down themselves. Teens have terrible impulse control to begin with. You need to do it for them.

Apps like Our Pact and Qustodio can make it easier for parents to help their teens get off their devices without having a battle every time.

Twenge’s conclusion is ringing in my ears: “If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence…it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.”

As always, we’re here to help. Call us if you need us.

Here’s to a healthy next generation,

Lauren Muriello, MA LPC
Licensed Therapist &
Founder of Well Being Therapy Center