Surveys reveal that depression and anxiety have increased for adults, teens, and kids. It’s unclear what is causing these increases, but longer workdays and overtasked lives may be strong contributors. Increased screen time on video games, social media, video and movie streaming, texts, and emails can be super fun and even improve productivity. But too much screen time can also lead to a mental brownout, a type of anxious fatigue that we may not even recognize until it leads to mental illness. Giving up screens to avoid it simply isn’t possible for most of us. But the good news is we don’t have to! Learn how smartphone health and wellness apps can benefit you without having to give up screen time!
Did you know that anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide is up 78% among teens? In fact, by some estimates 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 8 have a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Left untreated, child symptoms may lead to more issues in adulthood.
Among children ages 3 to 17:
- 4% or 6.1 million have been diagnosed with ADHD
- 4% or 4.5 million have been diagnosed with a behavior problem
- 1% or 4.4 million have been diagnosed with anxiety and
- 2% or 1.9 million have diagnosed with depression.
Boys are more likely than girls to experience a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
Social Media Impacts on Children’s Mental Health
Social media has various effects on mental health, especially in children. Dr. Bennett writes in her book, Screen Time in the Mean Time, says that she feels sleep deprivation is the most common contributor to mental health problems today. The blue light on devices interrupts the sleep pattern and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Many people also develop a compulsive impulse to check notifications which can also delay sleep. Teens with sleep deprivation demonstrate lower achievement motivation, more teacher-child relationship problems, a poorer academic self-concept, and poorer school performance.
Too often, we see the best sides of our friends on social media. After all, nobody wants to read about the doom and gloom of a breakup or the fight someone just had with their mother-in-law. Positive posting can lead to friends feeling left out and generally bad about how their lives don’t compare. The GKIS article The FOMO EFFECT: How Fun Friend Posts Can Lead to Clinical Anxiety provides more information on self-comparison.
Social media poses a major risk of distractibility. We tend to go on an endless cycle of content on one social media app or we cycle between multiple social media apps. This causes us to spend a longer amount of time on social media and forget about what we are supposed to do in the “real world”.
Mental Health Apps
Dr. Bennett recommends mental health apps to her clients all of the time. Free and convenient, they can be a great addition to psychotherapy. Even for people who aren’t in treatment, mental health apps can help us get to where we want to be by offering mood-enhancing toolkits, mood monitoring, and breathing and meditation ideas.
Mental health apps are awesome in that they are convenient, inexpensive, and even free, and available. They can be a comfortable first-step to wellness prior to (or even while) seeking out help from a mental health professional.
CAUTION: Keep in mind possible privacy issues due to the risk of data breaching and the release of private information to third parties. Many psychologists also agree that the apps are not as effective as seeing a mental health professional.
Here are some mental health apps that GKIS is happy to share with you:
Sanvello is an app that aims to help you relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety by providing a complex toolkit of strategies and resources. It allows you to record your mood and health activities in order to track patterns.
There is also a Sanvello peer community that allows users to share stories, encouragement, and personal insights on any topic. The Terms of Service state “You must be over 13 years of age to use the Services, and children under the age of 13 cannot use or register for the Services.”
The toolkit provided by Sanvello includes:
Meditation: Lessons focus on specific topics like relaxing, mindfulness, stressful situations, and calm down.
Health: Helps you track health habits that may be affecting your moods such as exercise, drug use, and water or caffeine consumption.
Hope: This tool provides the user with a space to save photos, quotes, activities, and community content.
Thoughts: Provides a place for journaling, analyzing events that have occurred, or discovering characteristics that have contributed to a feeling.
Goals: Allows users to select a challenge such as reconnecting with a friend or saying hello to a stranger.
Guided Journeys: A series of journeys that encourage a user to accomplish something they have never done before.
Porchlight is an app that is designed to allow loved ones to easily check in on each other’s mental health. The app prompts you to “check-in” once you enter the app where you can share your emotions using emoji. Users can connect with others which will send daily check-in notifications to the connected users. Porchlight provides prompts to check in with the connected users depending on what emotion they check in as.
Porchlight’s Terms of Service states “you must be 13 or older to register as a user or to use the app. If you are a minor, you must have your parents’ permission to donate through the App.”
Headspace is an app that provides guided meditation exercises to help the user become healthier and happier. Headspace claims that it can increase happiness by 16% with just 10 days of use. It is also a popular app with over 60 million active users.
There are 4 main guides to mindfulness within the app:
The Wake Up: Daily short stories and small meditations to help you start your morning on a good start
Move Mode: Exercises to help strengthen mental and physical well-being
Sleep: Sleepcasts, music, and audio experiences to aid a restful night of sleep
Meditation: Teaches everyday mindfulness to help at any time of the day
According to the Terms of Service for Headspace, “You must be 18 years of age, or the age of majority in your province, territory or country, to sign up as a registered user of the Products. Individuals under the age of 18, or the applicable age of majority, may utilize the Products only with the involvement and consent of a parent or legal guardian, under such person’s account and otherwise subject to these Terms.”
Calm is an app designed to assist users to develop healthy mental fitness, relax, and good sleep habits. The goal of the app is to introduce people to the benefits of mindfulness through meditation.
There are 6 different items of focus in the app:
Meditate: Teaches the skills of meditation
Sleep: Tools to have a restful sleep
Music: To help you relax, focus, or sleep
Body: Demonstrates mindful movement and stretching
Masterclass: Audio programs taught by experts
Scenes: Nature scenes and sounds to help relax and focus
Calm’s Terms of Service state “you may only use the Services only if you are 13 years or older. To make a purchase via the Services, you must be 18 years or older and capable of forming a binding contract.”
Thank you to CSUCI Intern, Makenzie Stancliff for providing insight on mental health apps. For more information about how electronics can impact our health, check out Dr. Bennett’s GKIS article, Is Wi-Fi Dangerous to Our Health?
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ajmc.com/focus-of-the-week/mental-health-issues-on-the-rise-among-adolescents-young-adults
Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health. (2019, April 19). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
 How does social media impact the mental health of young people? (2019, October 28). Retrieved from https://www.internetmatters.org/blog/2017/04/12/social-media-impact-mental-health-young-people/
Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/technology-and-the-future-of-mental-health-treatment/index.shtml
Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sanvello.com/
Being There. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.porchlightapp.io/
 “Terms & Conditions.” Headspace, www.headspace.com/terms-and-conditions.
 “About.” Calm Blog, www.calm.com/blog/about.
 “Terms of Service.” Calm, www.calm.com/en/terms.