According to a 2022 McKinsey report, 25 percent of Gen Z respondents reported feeling more emotionally distressed, which may be linked to a higher risk of suicide. This rate is almost double the levels reported by Millennial and Gen X respondents . Additionally, a 2019 report indicates that the suicide rate for people aged 10 to 24 increased by 56% between 2007 to 2017. For children aged 10 to 14, which would include the younger portion of Gen Z, the suicide rate tripled in the same time frame .
As an author committed to encouraging a deeper appreciation and love for nature in people, I am deeply concerned about the well-being of our young people. The motivation for my book- Nature Bound is the mental health of Generation Z. Recent reports have shown a worrisome rise in emotional distress and suicide rates among this group . Factors such as screen time and social media usage play a significant role in these trends.
There are ten critical damaging aspects of screen time and social media on individuals under 25. First, these platforms can contribute to a negative body image, as young people compare themselves to the idealized images often portrayed online.
Second, they can lead to increased rates of anxiety and depression, as revealed in Facebook’s internal research on Instagram usage among teenage girls.
Third, the constant accessibility of social media can trigger impulse control problems, while regular alerts and notifications can disrupt concentration and focus. Sleep problems are another issue, with excessive screen time, especially before bed, leading to poor sleep quality.
Furthermore, despite the ability of these platforms to connect people, they can paradoxically lead to feelings of loneliness. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is another detrimental effect, often leading to compulsive checking of social media feeds. Social media can also exacerbate feelings of inadequacy, bullying, and harassment. Finally, these platforms can exacerbate existing mental health issues and contribute to reduced self-esteem.
Recognizing these challenges, as parents and mentors, we must consider how to mitigate the damaging impacts of screen time and social media. One promising approach is encouraging young people to engage more with the natural world around them. Nature offers a calming, stimulating environment that can support mental well-being. It presents a counterbalance to the constant stream of digital information and provides a sense of perspective and peace. My book, “Nature Bound with Wenaha Henry” offers a range of activities to help ignite young people’s love for the great outdoors .
To protect and support our youth, it is essential to balance screen time and social media use with other activities that nurture mental health and well-being. We need to take these issues seriously, as they directly affect the mental health of our younger generations. Let’s engage the healing power of nature and consider how we can use it to create a healthier, happier future for Generation Z.
The following are the ten most damaging aspects of screen time and social media, particularly for individuals under the age of 25:
- Negative Body Image: Instagram, a popular social media platform, has been reported to cause teenage girls to feel worse about their bodies, potentially leading to body image issues and associated disorders .
- Increased Anxiety and Depression: Facebook’s internal research also showed that Instagram increased anxiety and depression among teen girls. More generally, excessive social media use has been linked to higher levels of these mental health conditions .
- Impulse Control Problems: The constant accessibility of social media via smartphones and tablets can trigger impulse control problems. Frequent alerts and notifications may contribute to this issue .
- Decreased Concentration and Focus: Constant notifications from social media platforms can disrupt concentration and focus, which can impact productivity and educational attainment .
- Sleep Problems: Excessive screen time, especially before bed, can disrupt sleep patterns, contributing to poor sleep quality and associated health issues .
- Feelings of Loneliness: Despite being connected to numerous people online, excessive social media use can lead to loneliness, as virtual interactions may not provide the same emotional fulfillment as face-to-face interactions .
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Social media can exacerbate feelings of FOMO, causing distress and leading to compulsive checking of social media feeds .
- Bullying and Harassment: Social media platforms can be channels for bullying and harassment, leading to significant emotional distress and psychological harm .
- Exacerbation of Mental Health Issues: For individuals already dealing with mental health issues, social media can exacerbate their problems and increase feelings of anxiety and depression .
- Reduced Self-esteem: Constant exposure to the idealized, often unrealistic, portrayals of life displayed by others on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and decreased self-esteem .
As Tom Brown once said, “Nature is the ultimate teacher.” Spending time in nature offers a respite from the constant stimulation of social media and phone addiction that plagues kids and teens.
In nature, kids and teens can engage in physical activity, breathe fresh air, connect with the natural world, problem-solve straightforward situations and be in the “real world”. This offers a much-needed break from the screen time that can negatively impact their brain chemistry, mental and physical health.
Nature provides a sense of calm and tranquility that can’t be found in the constant chatter of social media. Being surrounded by trees, running water, and wildlife offers a sense of grounding and perspective that neutralizes the anxiety and stress of modern life.
Exploring the outdoors also fosters a sense of independence and self-sufficiency in kids and teens. They learn to navigate their surroundings, make decisions, and rely on their own abilities rather than constantly seeking the validation of social media likes and comments.
Overall, time spent in nature is a powerful antidote to the addictive and often overwhelming nature of social media and phone use. It offers a chance to disconnect, recharge, and cultivate a more profound connection with the world around us.
Invite your children to experience the “real world” with you and build their sense of adventure!
About The Author
Emanuel Rose, an Authentic marketing expert, keynote speaker, and mentor, merges his passion for nature and the study of human consciousness, offering transformative experiences combining stillness, nature, and adventure.
His work includes children’s books promoting wilderness awareness and inspiring families to rediscover the healing and empowering power of the great outdoors. With a unique emphasis on fostering mental well-being and encouraging environmental stewardship, Rose invites us to join him on a journey of connection to God, self-discovery, and time in nature.