Smartphone-addicted teens have visibly different brains, researchers say


Research presented at the Radiological Society of North America showed the brains of adolescents addicted to smartphones and the internet are measurably different than the brains of normal adolescents.


The study, conducted by professors at Korea University in Seoul, North Korea, used a technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to evaluate the brains of 19 teens diagnosed with a smartphone or internet addiction and 19 average teens. The goal was to measure each teen’s level of two types of neurotransmitters: GABA and Glx. GABA is crucial to vision and motor control, and regulates brain functions like anxiety. Glx speeds up the neurons within the brain. Maintaining the proper ratio of GABA to Glx is very important for mental health and quality sleep.


The researchers found that the addicted teens had higher ratios of GABA to Glx. Unsurprisingly, these teens were also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia. As part of the study, some of the teens who were addicted to smartphones attended cognitive behavioral therapy for nine weeks. These teens’ GABA to Glx ratios improved significantly after attending therapy, while the teens who did not attend therapy experienced no such improvement.


You can read more about the study by clicking here or here.


Smartphone and internet addiction is real, and its impact on teens is physical, emotional, and academic. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to struggle with their mental and physical health and get lower grades in school. The consequences of overusing electronics will affect their entire lives! It’s more important than ever to help kids develop healthy internet habits.


Clean Router, the original parental control internet router, can block porn, put your kids’ devices on a schedule, and help your family get to sleep at night. Get yours today!


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internet use affects teen grades

Boys and girls waste time differently online but hurt GPAs similarly, study says

The internet / grade connection is real


Everyone knows teenagers spend a lot of time on the internet and most of that time is less than productive. AND it’s not hard to guess wasting time online isn’t good for the GPA. It’s not even a surprise that boys and girls engage in different online activities. But Taiwanese researchers Su-Yen Chen and Yang-Chih Fu wanted to know if different online activities effect boys’ and girls’ grade point averages differently.


In their 2009 study “Internet Use and Academic Achievement: Differences in Early Adolescence,” Su-Yen Chen and Yang-Chih Fu analyzed Taiwanese eighth graders’ internet usage. Unsurprisingly, girls spent more time socializing online, and boys spent more time gaming. This difference is also encouraged in Taiwan by internet cafes focused on online gaming and mostly frequented by young men.
Researchers then examined the correlation between certain activities (gaming, socializing, and searching for information) and the entrance exam scores. They found that gaming was associated with lower boys’ scores, and that socializing was associated with lower girls’ scores. However, gaming didn’t seem to negatively impact the girls’ scores, and socializing didn’t seem to hurt the boys’ scores. Searching for information was associated with higher test scores in both genders.


What can we learn from these results?


In spite of the gender generalizations made by this study, the most helpful take-away seems to be that internet activities effect different people differently. Online shopping might teach valuable lessons about marketing and business to one person but might just be a waste of time and money to another person. Short periods of gaming could help one person unwind and practice self-discipline (ie learning to turn the game off when appropriate) or be a dangerous addictive distraction to someone else.
Teenagers need to learn how to use the internet responsibly. Clean Router can provide limits that can help that learning process (click here for more information).  But parents also need to help teenagers develop self-awareness and self-discipline. Teenagers have to know when to work, when to play, and simply when enough is enough. These principles apply “in real life” as well, of course. But the addictive nature of technology necessitates a deeper recognition of growing dependency. It’s too easy to sit down and let hours fly by while one is clicking away. By helping teenagers learn these skills, parents are preparing their children to be responsible, independent adults.


That’s just good parenting.



Establishing Safeguards to Prevent Legal Trouble Online: A guest post from Carver, Cantin & Mynarich

As parents, we know excessive screen time and online mischief can impact our kids’ physical and mental health, grades, spirituality, and values. What we often forget or don’t realize, though, is getting into trouble online can have legal consequences for our kids. Today’s guest post from Carver, Cantin & Mynarich offers their legal perspective on why we need to keep our kids safe online.


Today’s children are the first digital natives. They were born into a world surrounded by digital devices- the perfect tools for education, communication, and entertainment. Unfortunately, the internet is also a dangerous world with issues ranging from cyber-bullying to inappropriate content. Here are a few ways parents can keep their children safe online and help them avoid legal trouble.   


Begin by limiting online time. The longer a child is exposed to digital media, the greater the chance of being exposed to its harmful effects. Several of the harmful effects of lengthy screen time include obesity from a sedentary lifestyle, sleep problems, and behavioral problems like bullying, learning developments, and violence. Additionally, more screen time means more time to find inappropriate content or get into other trouble online.    


So, just how much screen time is too much? According to the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under the age of 18 months should not be exposed to any. Those between 18 to 24-months can be exposed to very limited amounts, while those between 2 to 5-years can handle just one hour of supervised exposure. Beyond the age of 5, an allowance of no more than two hours per day is recommended.


Next, parents should monitor online time. Besides exposure time, parents need to determine the quality of the content their children consume. They should help their children choose positive educational content and talk about how to make good choices online. This could entail helping kids discern what is “fake news,” putting in place parental controls to ensure kids aren’t looking at overly-sexualized or other age-inappropriate content, or just talking about things online that might interfere with their emotional, physical, or mental well-being. Moreover, parents should watch programs with their children and discuss what they are watching. This will not only help parents monitor what their kids are doing, it will also help teach their kids the boundaries of what is and isn’t appropriate.


Consider installing protective software. Given that adults aren’t available 100% of the time to monitor what kids are watching, protective technology can be really helpful. There are a myriad of technologies that can protect them from potentially harmful content. One such tool is Clean Router. This enables parents to manage and monitor all digital devices in their home. As such, it blocks internet pornography, filters Youtube, enforces time restrictions, and logs all activity.


Finally, when it comes to your kids’ online time, be consistent with rules and consequences. One of the negative effects of online exposure to inappropriate content is violence, which includes physical and emotional bullying.


Cyberbullying is on the rise, especially among teenagers. It is bullying carried out via digital technologies, such as texts, emails, and social media. Among other things, bullying can cause low self-esteem, drugs and alcohol abuse, poor grades in school, and physical and emotional health issues. Moreover, cyberbullying has serious legal ramifications.   


Kids also may not realize the danger of sharing personal information or photos online. This is especially true when it comes to sexting, which involves sharing sexually explicit content via digital devices. Your teenager may think they are just sending a cute picture to their significant other, but in some states, sexting between teens can be legally considered the distribution of child pornography. In fact, several states have specific laws on teen sexting. In Missouri, for example, distribution of a minor’s sexually explicit content can attract a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine.


With serious risks like this, it is critical that parents establish safeguards to protect their children online. Though the internet is an incredible resource, it also opens the door to emotional, physical, and legal risks, especially for kids and teens.


 Carver, Cantin & Mynarich are a team of criminal defense lawyers in Springfield, Missouri. The firm specializes in Internet crimes, along with serious felonies, criminal tax, death penalty prosecutions and a wide-range of other criminal cases. The firm is a 2017 and 2018 U.S. News & Best Lawyers Best Law Firm in America.


Thank you, Carver, Cantin & Mynarich!


Hey parents, ready for online peace of mind?


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New Research Links Excessive Screen Time and Suicide for Teenage girls

In the most sobering study on teens and screen time yet, researchers have found teenage girls who spend large amounts of time on computers and mobile devices were more likely to experience depression and attempt suicide.


The study used data from two nationally representative surveys that followed adolescents between the ages of thirteen and eighteen years old and national suicide statistics from the same age group. Researchers particularly focused on the effects of “new media”– any type of media having to do with computers. This includes some of the most popular forms of media among current teens: social media, apps, gaming, etc.


Researchers found that adolescent girls who spent three or more hours per day on a screen were 34% more likely to have a suicide-related outcome (suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts). This number rose to 48% for girls who spent five or more hours per day online. These measures of screen time specifically excluded time spent on homework! In fact, girls who spent more time on homework reported lower depressive symptoms. Interestingly, this study did not find a correlation between excessive screen time and suicide-related outcomes in adolescent boys.


What can parents do? According to this study, moderation and balance are key. Depression and suicide-related outcomes were actually higher in teens who reported no screen time than teens who reported one hour of screen time or less per day. This may indicate the importance of in-person socialization for teens, as the study’s data linked social media use to spending time with people off-line. Print media use (books, newspapers, etc.), playing sports, physical exercise, and attending church were also found to predict lower levels of depression and improved mental health. Sadly, this study found that today’s teens are doing more of what makes them depressed (excessive screen time) and less of what makes them feel better (reading, exercising, attending church, socializing off-line). Dr. Twenge, lead researcher on this study, believes this is why suicide rates among adolescent girls have sky-rocketed in the last five years.


You can read the study in full here.


It’s more important than ever before to keep your family safe online and help your kids develop healthy screen habits. Clean Router monitors all activity on your internet network, blocks pornography and adult content, and helps you enforce a healthy schedule! Try the Clean Router Proven Process today!


Complete the set-up wizard

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Customize time restrictions

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Unplugging may improve social skills, study suggests

A recent study suggests taking some tech-free time may improve tweens’ ability to recognize emotional cues from others.


The study, published in the academic journal “Computers in Human Behavior,” tested two classes of sixth graders (aged 11, 12, and 13 years old) on their ability to recognize nonverbal emotional cues. This was done by asking the participants to infer the emotional states of people in photographs and scenes from silent videos. One class of sixth graders then attended a five day nature camp, where the use of televisions, computers, and mobile devices was not permitted. The less fortunate sixth grade class stayed home, attended school, and maintained their current media habits which was, according to the surveyed sixth graders, about four and a half hours per day of media use. Both classes were tested again after the lucky sixth grade class returned home from camp.


After only five days, the sixth graders who spent five days away from technology significantly improved in their ability to read facial emotion– improvement the other sixth grade class did not match. You can read the original study here.


This study should be encouraging to parents (and teachers, therapists, grandmas, grandpas, and anyone who works with kids). In less than a week, these kids exhibited significant, measurable improvement. That means you don’t have to permanently ban all electronic devices from your home to promote your kids’ social development. Just a week or so at a time, perhaps during a family vacation or a portion of a school break, will help your kids to see and understand the people around them.


There’s no need to go overboard, though, because thanks to this study, we also can see that, given a little space, our kids will grow up and figure things out. The five day camp in this study was NOT emotional IQ boot camp or intensive social skills training– it was just a nature camp. The tweens didn’t need an intervention; they only needed a reason to log off and be present. As adults, we can give the kids in our care the incentive to unplug by modelling and insisting on tech-free times and spaces. If we make screen-free time normal, these kids will grow into adults who understand how and why to maintain healthy media habits.


Help your family unplug!

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Technology is kidnapping our children!

I’m the father of 6 great kids ranging in age from almost 16 to 2. As you can imagine, my wife and I struggle to keep a watchful eye on them. We often find ourselves in busy public places. Shopping with 6 kids is a challenge at best and frequently a total nightmare. Going out to eat with 6 kids can be an expensive adventure. Even getting everyone ready and making it to church on time is tough.


20160715_145129My youngest son, Dustin, is a firecracker just waiting to go off. He’s learned many things under the tutelage of his 4 older brothers. He loves climbing on things and jumping off. He’s quickly learned to stick up for himself. He loves running around and playing with anyone who will pay attention to him.


I was recently shopping with my wife and some of the kids, including Dustin. We were in the clothing section of the store, and Dustin figured out that it was lots of fun to hide inside the hanging displays of pants and shirts. He continued his game of hiding in the clothing, peeking out, and running to a different location for several minutes. (Yes, I’m one of those parents. I just let him do it. So irresponsible, right?)


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At one point I had not seen him for a few minutes. I checked where he last was and found nothing. I walked quickly down the aisle trying to locate him, with no luck. At this point the thought came to mind that he could have been taken by some. My heart pounded and began to ache as that thought sunk in.


Fortunately, we were able to find him without too much more effort: he got distracted by toys and stopped hiding in the clothes. However, this experience has allowed me to reflect on the horror of having a child kidnapped. I can’t even imagine an experience like that of Elizabeth Smart.


As I’ve thought about kidnapping it occurred to me that maybe someone is trying to kidnap my kids. They aren’t trying to physically take my kids and keep them as slaves, however – sometimes it feels like technology is trying to take them from me. Especially my teenage children seem less connected with me, less loving to the family, less engaged in school, and less interested in spending time with the family when they’ve heavily used their gadgets.


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Let me clarify. I love technology! I’m a geek at heart. I love computers, tablets, and phones. My “junk electronics” drawer (as my wife calls it) is excessive and growing. I think so much good can be done with technology, and I have discovered that one of my primary missions in life is to help people use technology in a healthy way. That being said, the prospect of my children being kidnapped by technology is horrifying.


If we aren’t careful technology can kidnap our kids in the following 3 ways:

  1. Screen Time – The amount of time kids spend online and on digital devices for many is growing out of control. When the parent is constantly nagging the child to stop using a device it sometimes drives a wedge between parent and child.

  3. Pornography – This is a sensitive and complicated topic. Needless to say, we are all concerned about the type of content our children access online. Not only is pornography addictive and destructive it changes how children look at their parents, especially their mother.

  5. Communication – Open communication is critical for maintaining healthy relationships. We’ve seen communication methods explode on the internet. Unfortunately, as children become comfortable communicating online they often become less comfortable communicating offline.


So, what can be done to prevent this type of kidnapping?! I would recommend we start, as a minimum, by doing the following:

  1. Talk to them – Make sure they understand your love and concern for them. Help them understand the dangers posed by excessive or inappropriate use of technology.

  3. Set clear expectations – Don’t keep them guessing. Make it clear to them what your expectations are for them and why you have them.

  5. Put reasonable boundaries in place – Once the expectations are clear it is important to set up some reasonable boundaries to help enforce the expectations.


How does Clean Router help?

Clean Router can be an excellent help to parents trying to prevent the problems outlined above.  It specifically does the following:

  • Screen Time – The Time Restrictions features gives parents control over the hours and days that devices can connect to the internet.

  • Pornography – Clean Router was engineered specifically to detect and block pornography.  The filtering build into Clean Router is sophisticated and robust.  It provides a layered approach which actually examines the content (and not just the URL like many other products).  It is fast and reliable.

  • Communication – Though Clean Router isn’t specifically a means of communicating it can be helpful in two ways; first, it is an easy way for parents to initiate a discussion about the dangers of the internet.  Second, the emailed reports can be an effective way for parents to see what their children are searching for and looking at.  This allows parents to proactively discuss various topics with their children.


Please don’t allow your children to get kidnapped! You wouldn’t allow a stranger to physically take your children away from you. Why would you allow technology to take them from you? The threat is real. Take action now!


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internet filter

Your daughter’s online boyfriend

Dating used to mean sharing a milkshake, catching a drive-in movie, or going dancing on a Friday night. Now it means exchanging heart emoticons and updating one’s Facebook relationship status.


Teenage romance has taken a turn for the digital. The perks are obvious: SnapChatting is cheaper than the movies, and heartfelt sentiments are easier to text than to say. Parents may also feel that digital dates are less risky than too much alone time. The downsides, though, may outweigh the advantages. Online relationships have their own pitfalls, and fail to prepare teens for real world relationships.


One of the draws and the dangers of the internet is the ease of anonymity. Not only can teens obscure their names and personal information, personalities and inner selves can be reinvented. Over digital messaging, shy kids can flirt with boldness, inexperienced teens can fabricate a history, and a “cool” image is easier to maintain.


Catfishing (falsifying one’s identity to trick or humiliate a potential dating partner) and sexting are two widely publicized dangers of online relationships, but teens in these relationships are disadvantaged in other ways as well.


An online relationship deprives teens of the learning experiences inherent in young dating. Asking for, planning, and going on dates are largely nonexistent in these relationships. The couple may spend some time together, but the time together is more likely to be informal hanging out or within the structure of the school day.


Digital communication provides an easy out for the tough conversations. Romantic overtures, working through conflict, and breaking up are all easier to type than to verbalize. Rejection is easier to handle privately. Teens aren’t learning to master emotionally fraught in-person communication, and so they are less prepared for adulthood and mature relationships.


Real relationships do not occur in a vacuum. There are schedules and obstacles, family and friends. Online relationships float through cyberspace with nothing else from real life to anchor them. This sets up unrealistic expectations for other relationships, which have to deal with mundane realities such as homework, parents, and planning a date for Friday night.


Unfortunately, digital relationships do not completely exist in a vacuum, either. The toxic, sexualized culture of the internet seeps into cyber relations all too easily. Most teen boys would balk at approaching a girl in real life and commenting on her physical attractiveness, but they eagerly mimic Tinder etiquette and text “URH”  (“you are hot”) to female acquaintances. The receptive girls escalate in their responses, and the parties become more comfortable more quickly with each other than they would in an off-line exchange.


Parents, online dating has arrived for teens and tweens and evolved into digital romances. Even if kids are restricted from online messaging apps like Kik, SnapChat, and Facebook Messenger, the same patterns of behavior can still happen over simple texting on non-smart phones. Know who your kid hangs out with digitally as well as off-line, and teach them to balance online exchanges with real life fun.


Get online peace of mind this summer with Clean Router!


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parenting kids and teens

“Annoying” Social Media Habits: Parental Crime or Parental Necessity?

A recent article on The Guardian detailed “The 10 worst parental crimes on social media.” Written by two 14 year old girls, the article lists 10 things parents on social media do that their teenagers find particularly annoying. However, as any parent knows, just because your child finds a certain rule (or practice) annoying does NOT mean that rule is worthless. Here are the ten social media “parental crimes,” as well as why parents might want to keep on re-offending.

1. “The ‘talk'”

According to the article, “the talk” covers adding strangers on social media and posting “things you may regret later in life.” Sorry teens, but this crime is a must for parents everywhere. We do recommend that parents be more specific about posting suggestive and/or unprofessional content and the short term and long term consequences of what teens post. As the authors pointed out, though, some parents leave out important topics like body shaming and pornography. The best strategy is to have the talk not just once, but continuously.

2. “Hypocrisy”

Teens complain that their parents have one set of rules for their kids and another set for themselves. While it is important for kids to recognize that screen freedom increases with age and maturity, parents should remember that their example will leave a lasting impression. So, if parents institute an unplugged hour, the whole family should probably participate.

3. “Boasting”

The teen authors of the article specifically call out parents who manufacture picture-perfect social media profiles and over share the details of their kids’ success. This is a common problem among social media users of all ages. Parents and teens should come to an understanding about what is and is not ok to post about family members.

4, 5, 6, 7. “Getting Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp/Instagram wrong”

We understand that teens may be embarrassed by public messages from their parents (as discussed in the article), but it seems nit-picky to complain about parents using various social media platforms “wrong.” Everyone expresses themselves online differently, so we think this is one area in which teens need to cut their parents some slack.

8. “Using bad science”

The examples given were warning boys that keeping cell phones in their pockets would make them infertile and telling teens that keeping mobile devices in their room overnight will interfere with their sleep. While there is a fair amount of support for the latter, it sounds like the real issue here is teens not respecting their parents’ judgement and limits.

9. “Spying”

Of all the “parental crimes,” this one is a must! Now, spying has a secretive connotation, and we believe that parents should be upfront about their monitoring, but parents need to know what their kids are doing online. Many, many online dangers lose their pull if kids just know that their parents are keeping tabs on them. Explain to your kids that you do not monitor out of a lack of trust but because it is your job as a parent to keep them safe and help them grow into responsible, independent adults. The day will come soon enough when you can step back, but it is essential that parents of minors are aware of their children’s online activity.

10. “Asking, ‘What have you been doing all day?'”

It is true that this particular comment can come off as passive aggressive. However, read further in the article: “How can we begin to answer such a question? I am not addicted; I’m terrified. Fear is the oxygen that fuels the fire of all social media. To you it may seem as if I’ve wasted a day staring at a screen, but if I don’t stay in contact with my friends, I feel terrified by what might happen.” This is NOT a healthy relationship with social media. If a parent notices their children spending hours a day on social media or feel anxious at the thought of disconnecting, the responsible course of action is to encourage them to cut back.


Parents, your involvement in your teens’ online lives is essential. Teens, responsible parents are aware of ALL aspects of their children’s lives. This does not have to be awkward! If both parents and teens are open about their goals and desires, this can be an opportunity for growth and strengthening parent-child relationships. Be patient, keep your cool, and have a sense of humor. These moments will stay with you both for the rest of your lives, so stick with it and know that your efforts are making all the difference.


Here at Clean Router, we believe that every family deserves a fun, safe online experience.


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twitter tips for teens

6 Costly Social Media Mistakes Teens Make

The teenage years may seem like a time to get away with being irresponsible and carefree. However, many teens and even parents forget that life-changing decisions are just around the corner. Most high school students submit college applications at sixteen or seventeen and begin applying for scholarships soon after. High school athletes face scrutiny during their junior and senior years as well.


College admissions personnel and college scouts are scrutinizing these teenagers. They examine personal essays and resumes, ask for interviews, and read letters of recommendation. They are also examining social media profiles; and, if they don’t like what they see, offers of admission and scholarships are withheld.


With the price of college tuition increasing every year, a teen’s social media blunders could cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Meanwhile, teens continue to obliviously post, message, and tweet away opportunities. What mistakes are they making?


1) They post revealing pictures (in more than one sense)

A suggestive profile pic might seem fun at the time, but colleges are unlikely to be impressed by a bikini shot. Keep in mind that all but the strictest social media privacy settings allow anyone to see a profile picture.

Skin aside, other kinds of pictures can turn off professionals. Images of drinking, partying, drug use, or bullying will destroy a teen’s online image too.


2) They post too often

While surprising, this social media habit was specifically listed by a Big Ten recruiter in the Chicago Tribune as a mistake. When teens post at all hours of the day and night, admissions advisors may ask, When is this kid studying?


3) They post extreme content

Your teen’s political ideology may be a little outside of the mainstream, and that’s ok. However, posting extreme left- or right-wing content might make some people think your teen is too “out there” to match their team, campus or workplace culture. Others might worry that your teen may not know how to work with those with other value systems. A good rule of thumb is if you would not talk about it at a real-life social gathering, you probably should not post it online.


4) They post insensitive or unkind messages

No one likes a bully, and in recent years, schools and the law cracked down on harassment both on and offline. Combine that with the fact that behavior on college campuses is subject to increased scrutiny these days, and it’s not surprising that colleges are being extra careful whom they invite to represent them. Each college student has the power to build or injure their alma mater’s reputation for the rest of his life– colleges don’t want to take any chances.


5) They use unprofessional profile names

No email, handle, user name, or profile name should include profane, suggestive, or violent content. While a goofy online moniker may have been funny or cute twenty years ago, an online presence should now be as clean-cut and inoffensive as behavior at Grandma’s house.


6) They don’t Google themselves

If someone Googled your teen, what would they see? While your teen may have sky-high privacy settings and immaculate posts, his or her friends might have less discretion. Make sure you know what any online searches will turn up, and clean up the results if necessary.


Don’t let your teens lose thousands of dollars and countless opportunities because of their online profiles! Have the social media talk again and again, and clean up their profiles. Your teens will thank you later, and they will learn valuable lessons about presenting themselves online and in real life.


Clean Router is committed to protecting your family on the internet.

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internet safety for kids

#Being Thirteen CNN special examines social media, young teens


“I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away,” said 13 year old Gia.


Could your teen ever prefer technology to food?


Gia is one of 200 eighth grade participants in a new CNN study on social media and young teenagers.  #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens, a special CNN report detailing the findings of this study, airs tonight.


The researchers found that the participants were heavily involved in social media. Over 90% of teens checked social media at least once a day, and 10% of participants even described themselves as “Very anxious” when cut off from social media.


Why the constant checking, and why all the anxiety? Social media not only provides “the peer connection that they so desperately crave,” it also provides an arena for posturing, increasing their social status, and attacking another’s social status.


Thus the anxiety. The teens are constantly checking social media because they want to know what other people are saying about them.. or not saying about them. Seeing pictures of parties and friendships from which they have been excluded is another stress factor of adolescent social media usage.


There is good news for parents, though. While merely being friends on social media with a teen did not seem to alleviate the emotional stress of social media, parental monitoring of teen’s social media activity ameliorated the negative effects of social media conflict for teenagers.


To read the CNN summary of the study, click here. To read the study itself, click here.