‘Our kids are not all right’: New report finds teens struggling due to school closure and isolation

A new report by the Child Mind Institute and the California Partners Project has found that teens are struggling with isolation from school closures and have greatly increased their screen time to cope, reports Kerry Breen with Today.

Forty-six California teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 participated in in-depth interviews and journaled about their habits and lifestyles during COVID. The group included 14 teenagers with diagnosed mental health conditions to “see if there was a connection between teens with diagnosed mental health challenges and increased risk of unhealthy technology habits.”

“During COVID, it became very important for us to look at how the kids are doing, and our kids are not all right,” said Dr. Harold Koplewicz, child and adolescent psychiatrist and founder and president of the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit focused on supporting children impacted by mental illness.

“The 14 out of 46 who have a mental health disorder are more symptomatic,” Koplewicz said. “The others who are typically developing are also suffering from signs and symptoms of minor depression and anxiety, worries about the future, the uncertainty of the pandemic and what it’s doing to their lives. It also seems that they’re sleeping less, they’re spending more time on screens.”

“… Every child and teenager’s mental health is affected by COVID,” Koplewicz continued. “That means that they may not have a mental health disorder, but they are experiencing symptoms and anxiety, depression, more inattention, more impulsivity.”

Below are the report’s four main findings.

  • Teens are experiencing “a tremendous loss due to school closure and social isolation.”
  • Teens have “limited opportunity” to form unique identities.
  • Teens are using “social media and gaming (as) the main way to meet their social needs.”
  • The extent of their technology use and its impact “aren’t obvious, even to those closest to teens.”

Given that many students are relying on screen time for their education, it is still important teens can use technology, Koplewicz continues, but “parents have a role in monitoring how much time they’re spending on screens, when it’s not education.”