In conjunction with our “Take action! Counter Bullying in Sports” program launched last May, we are currently working on cyberbullying. During our fact-finding consultations, we lingered over the book iGen by Jean M. Twenge professor of psychology at San Diego University. After reading the book, we felt the need to provide you with a short summary, considering that in certain chapters the book discusses the link between well-being, screen time and physical activity.
The heart of the argument is based on the democratization of the smartphone and its impacts on the generation following the millennials. In fact, if we go back a few years in the Unites States, we can still see differences based on ethnic origins and social classes in Internet use. However, in 2015, these differences are completely erased. Getting back to Twenge’s remarks, the Internet has become a universal experience. That is why it has become important to question ourselves as to the effects of this democratization on the generation that grew up with a smartphone glued to their fingers.
Once of the consequences considers the strong impact on mental health. Our young people, especially young girls, are facing an ever-increasing risk of symptoms of depression. In this case, we are talking about 10% of young girls presenting symptoms of depression in the 8th, 10th and 12th years (equivalent to secondary 1, 3 and 5).
If boys appear to be less affected in terms of symptoms of depression, they are still affected when it comes to major depression or other variables such as solitude, life satisfaction and suicide rates (see Twenge’s book).
That said, young girls are still at a greater risk in this new digital era, as confirmed by the hospitalization rate for self-mutilation, which has tripled since 2009 for girls aged 10-14, increasing from 100 per 100,000 to 300 per 100,000.
All these statistics very closely follow the evolution of technologies. And for those who are wondering, they do not in any way follow economic recession data.
Therefore, there is an inverse relationship between exposure to new technologies and well-being. But, why is it important that awareness be raised among the players in the sports community? It’s easy. Physical activity and sports have been recognized as an excellent factor to protect against the risk of being unhappy, feeling along and developing symptoms of depression whereas screen time represents a significant risk factor for all these variables.
Which reminds us of the blog on the mental health of student athletes that we published a few months ago or the striking statistics from the recent study by Kerr et al. (May 2019) concerning the link between ill treatment (abuse and violence) on national sports teams and the health of athletes which noted that 13% of active athletes and 20% of retired athletes admitted having suicidal thoughts.
A study (meta-analysis) by Rodriguez-Ayllon et al. (2019) confirms a positive relationship between physical activity and mental health. However, this same study emphasizes that if physical activity is an option worth exploring in relation to this problem, it greatly depends on the quality of the practice environment and that in certain cases physical activity could even have the opposite effect and make things worse.
In summary, we have to remember that mental health is a problem that must be addressed in the coming years, since it seems to be exacerbated by the appearance and democratization of new technologies, including smartphones. We also have to remember that we all have an important role to play in this challenge, whereas physical activity is a determining protection factor. However, creating positive environments free from abuse and violence remain our role and responsibility so that sport can really help with this problem.
For support or advice on the topic, contact our helpline at 1-833-245-HELP (4537).
Project Manager – Take action! Counter bullying in sports
To better understand the intricacies between well-being and screen time, or to know why young girls are at a greater risk than boys, I encourage you to read iGen by Jean M. Twenge.
For an introduction to mental health problems in sport, I invite you to read our blog Student athletes and mental health: an unknown reality .
Kerr, G., Willson, E., et Stirling, A. (2019). Prevalence of Maltreatment Among Current and Former National Team Athletes . Located at https://athletescan.com/sites/default/files/images/prevalence_of_maltreatment_reporteng.pdf
Rodriguez-Ayllon, M., Cadenas-Sanchez, C., Estévez-Lopez, F., Munos, N. E., Mora Gonzalez, J. et al., (2019). Role of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in the Mental Health of Preschoolers, Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sport Medecine, Apr.16. Doi : 10.1007/s40279-019-01099-5.
Twenge, J. M. (2017). IGen: Why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy–and completely unprepared for adulthood–and what that means for the rest of us . Simon and Schuster.