A full recording of this event is available on YouTube. View it here.
On Thursday May 13th, the Family Online Safety Institute hosted a virtual panel discussion, “Teens, Screens and Mental Health.” Julie Jargon of The Wall Street Journal moderated the conversation between these leading experts: Dr. Kara Bagot of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Kelly Davis of Mental Health America, Tracy Elizabeth of TikTok, Dr. Niklas Johannes of the Oxford Internet Institute; and Becka Ross of Crisis Text Line.
The conversation opened with a brief overview of current research that explores the relationship between technology use and teens’ mental health, emphasizing the importance that longitudinal data provides in explaining tech use and mental health symptoms over time. It was also mentioned that screen time is an imprecise way to measure impact considering the multitude of categories that media presents.
Panelists discussed screen time and digital behaviors that are high risk or most rewarding for teenagers, noting the difference between active and passive screen time and how different groups use social media. For a lot of teens, the communities they find online are a way to get support for the challenges in their lives, and an outlet for them to connect with others. Advice was given for parents seeking to establish and enhance healthier relationships between kids and technology and how parents, educators, and other adults can recognize signs of poor mental health. Experts also shared how teens are using technology to seek mental health support for themselves and for one another online when they may not be able to do so in the offline world.
The discussion ended with reflections on the ways in which the tech industry plays a role in mental health support, emphasizing the collaboration needed between industry and their trusted community and organizational partners. It was agreed that tech must be designed to honor the development of youth, and how governments should support collaboration as well.
In a brief Q&A period, panelists shared digital parenting strategies regarding social media for younger teenagers, widespread tech use, and the ability to stay up to date on the types of content children are consuming online.