Are you thinking about giving your teen a smartphone? You may want to read this report before making that decision. A study by US-based non-profit Sapien Labs reportedly found that the later children get a smartphone or tablet, the better their mental health as adults.
The findings also revealed that women who get a smartphone at an early age are more affected than their male counterparts.
How was the study conducted, what were the main findings and what do they mean? We explained.
The study titled ‘Age of First Smartphone and Mental Well-being Outcomes’ was published on Sunday (14 May). It analyzed data collected from 27,969 adults aged 18 to 24 from more than 40 countries between January and April this year.
About 4,000 of these adults are from India.
Like everyday English Indian Express noted, this research is part of the Global Mind Project, which is an ongoing survey of global mental well-being, conducted by Sapien Labs to “understand and enable the human mind”.
According to the newspaper, data was gathered from volunteers through a 47-item assessment that covers “a wide range of symptoms and cognitive abilities on a scale of impact on life that is combined to provide a composite score, called the Mental Health Quotient or MHQ , as well as dimensional scores.”
These scores and ratings of each element were compared to the reported age of ownership of the first smartphone or tablet, reported Hindustan Times (HT).
What were the findings?
According to the study, young people aged 18-24, who got smartphones at a young age, have “poorer mental health”, with women more affected than men.
As many as 74 percent of the female participants, who received their first smartphone at age six, were found to face mental health challenges as young adults with their scores in the “distressed” or “distressed” range. MHQ range, per Times of India (TOI).
Among girls who got their first smartphones by age 10, about 61 percent had mental health issues as young adults. It drops even further – 52 percent – for those who received the device at age 15.
When the age of first smartphone ownership was 18, about 46 percent of women were found to be experiencing mental health challenges.
In the case of boys, about 42 percent who got their first smartphone at age six were found to have “disturbed” or “distressed” mental states. That dropped to 36 percent for men who got the device at age 18, it reported TOI.
The study found that when children got smartphones at an older age, their “Social Self, a composite measure of various elements such as self-confidence and the ability to interact positively to others,” is getting better.
“The results are consistent across regions, including South Asia, and thus also apply to India. Suicidal ideation problems, feelings of aggression towards others, a sense of being detached from reality and hallucinations weaken more strongly and significantly with an older age of first smartphone ownership for women, and for men too, but to a lesser degree, “the researchers. said, according to HT.
“However, while for females it (the observed pattern) is highly significant in all regions, for males the trend is only directional but not significant in South Asia,” the study noted, according to Indian Express.
Moreover, the researchers noted that the relationship between mental well-being at ages 18-24 and the age of first smartphone ownership was significant even among participants without traumatic or adverse childhood experiences.
“Getting your phone early means more mental health problems as an adult, particularly suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others and feeling detached from reality; overall a weaker sense of ‘social self’, that is, how one views oneself and relates to others,” says Sapien Labs founder Dr Tara Thiagarajan. TOI.
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Why is learning important?
According to Dr Thiagarajan, “These findings suggest that there are long-term improvements in mental well-being for every year of delay in acquiring a smartphone during childhood”.
“It is important that we continue to study this relationship and work to develop effective policies and interventions that can support healthy mental development in the digital age to reverse the declining trends we are tracking,” the neuroscientist was quoted as saying. which said Indian Express.
The study becomes even more important for India where 83 percent of children in the 10-14 age group use smartphones, more than the international average of 76 percent, TOI reported citing last year’s Global Connected Family study by McAfee.
Says Shailender Swaminathan, director, Sapien Labs Center for the Human Brain and Mind, India HT in a statement: “This report makes a critical contribution to shaping our understanding of the role of early access to technology in influencing mental health outcomes for children and young people. The findings have significant implications for schools, parents, employers and others in India, home to over 200 million youth in the age group of 15-25 years”.
With inputs from agencies
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