More time on smartphone linked to higher teen suicide risk, study finds

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Parents know just how challenging it can be for children to resist the seductive glow of their smartphones, but a new study makes the best case yet for giving the gadgets a rest.

A Florida State University researcher found evidence to suggest that the more time teens spend on their devices, the more likely they are to contemplate, and potentially attempt, suicide.

"There is a concerning relationship between excessive screen time and risk for death by suicide, depression, suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts," said psychology professor Thomas Joiner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates for teens have soared since 2010, particularly among girls. The teenage suicide rate rose 31 percent from 2010 to 2015.

The study found 48 percent of teens who spent at least five hours a day on their devices said they thought about suicide, compared to 28 percent for those who spent less than an hour on devices.

Joiner and co-author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, stressed that their research shows a link, but does not mean screen time causes depression or suicide.

"Teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are less likely to be depressed," said Twenge.

She and Joiner said parents should not feel like they must take away their children's devices, but encouraged them instead to track and moderate how much time they spend on their phones.

“It’s totally unrealistic and probably not even good to think kids will stop using screens," said Joiner, adding that "parents should try to make nonscreen activities as attractive as possible..."

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