Increase In Anxiety, Depression Among Area Kids


For adults sometimes life may seem overwhelming, but what about for children? 

More American teens and children than ever before are struggling with anxiety and depression. 

According to recent research, the number is now more than one in every 20 kids. 

Here’s a look at what parents need to know about the unsettling statistic.

Meghan Wilkens tries to make it a priority to get outside during these summer days.

“Burn off some energy. The kids have so much energy,” Wilkens said.

The mother of two says while it’s often easier to entertain your children with phones or tablets, it’s not the way she wants to parent her kids.

“You just use your parental intuition on what’s appropriate for your kids,” Meghan Wilkens said.

“Kids should not have access to social media or a smart phone until they’re 13,” Avera Clinical Therapist Larry Ling said.

Ling has worked with children struggling with anxiety and depression for around 30 years. Over the past couple of years the number of kids seeking his help has increased dramatically.

“You’re seeing all these symptoms of high anxiety, and yet, if you look at their family life, it’s pretty ok. They’re not suffering from abuse or neglect or anything like that,” Ling said.

Instead, Ling believes much of the rise of these mental health conditions has to do with social media.

“It’s definitely comparing themselves. It is also the ability to criticize each other behind closed doors or to bully each other,” Ling said.

In addition to anxiety and depression, more children are also taking their own lives. According to the CDC, the suicide rate among those ages 10 to 19 increased 56 percent between 2007 and 2016.

“Teens are trying to use other teens as therapists. They can’t. They’re teenagers. They end up making the problem worse, rather than making it better because they sort of validate each others anxiety,” Ling said.

Here are some warning signs to watch out for. If your child is isolating him or herself from friends and family, you might want to seek help. Also watch out for changes in sleeping patterns, moods or behaviors.

“Are they mopey or sad and not as communicative as they had been,” Ling said.

If you decide to give your children smartphones when they become teenagers, Ling recommends limiting their cell phone screen time to an hour a day. It’s also not a bad idea to set up parental controls and monitor who your kids are interacting with.

“Then they’re like, ‘We’re invading their privacy.’ That kind of stuff. They’re you’re kids. Invade their privacy. If that’s what it’s going to take to save them and to make sure they’re not talking about suicide with their friends, then do it,” Ling said.

“We forget that people are only presenting their best picture of what they’re doing online. Even as an adult, it’s hard to sometimes remind yourself of that,” Wilkens said.

Which is why Wilkens knows having conversations with her children about social media use will not be a walk in the park, but it’s one that’s essential during these changing times of parenting. 

Of course it’s not just kids who need to watch their social media use. 
A new study out of the University of Michigan and Illinois State University finds that children of parents who spend too much time on their smartphones are more likely to have behavioral problems later on. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition, you can get help right away by calling Avera at 1-800-691-4336.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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