How Teens Handled Quarantine – The Atlantic

Some of our most interesting findings had to do with teens’ use of technology. When the pandemic hit and quarantine began, teens were unable to spend time with friends or fellow students face-to-face. Electronic communication became the primary way teens could interact with people outside of their families. Given that screen time, especially time spent using social media, has been associated with mental-health issues in teens, we wanted to understand how technology affected their mental health in quarantine.

To our surprise, teens’ technology use did not appear to increase dramatically during the pandemic when compared with 2018. Teens in quarantine were spending more time videochatting with friends and watching TV, videos, and movies on an electronic device. But they spent less time gaming, texting, and using social media.

We were surprised that social media, which is more connective, decreased, while passively watching television and videos increased during that same time. Teens might have primarily been using media as a form of distraction or to pass the long hours in quarantine, rather than predominantly seeking out more virtual connection with others. These trends are consistent with our findings regarding mental health, given that social-media use is more strongly associated with mental-health issues than are more passive types of media such as watching television or videos.

Of course, the line between connective and passive media is blurrier now than it once was. For example, YouTube, which is primarily a video-sharing site, is now social media, where users create and post videos, receive “response” videos in return, and comment on videos in an interactive way. In fact, a rising number of social-media apps integrate video into their connectivity. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, for instance, were all originally photo- and message-sharing apps that now have video posting and sharing as main components. These sites/apps are often passively entertaining and connective. So teens might have been specifically using TV and videos as a twofold way to cope with pandemic-related anxiety.

Another possible reason for the rise in video watching and videochatting online, and the decrease in texting, is that students on school campuses usually can’t stream videos or videochat during the day, as this would be disruptive of the school environment. But they often will text throughout the school day, as this form of connection is quick and silent. Teens also use the messaging features within video-rich apps in lieu of old-fashioned texting.

However, none of these interpretations minimizes the happy fact that teens were also sleeping more and spending more time with siblings and parents (including playing family games, going outside more with family, and eating family dinners), which might have displaced some of the time they would have spent using media.

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Depressed teens may struggle in school

By about age 16, teens diagnosed with depression have substantially lower educational attainment, a new British study finds.

Targeted educational support might be of particular benefit to teens from poor backgrounds and boys, but all children with depression can benefit from such help, the study authors suggested.

For the study, the researchers used British health and education records to identify nearly 1,500 kids under 18 years of age with depression. Typically, their depression was diagnosed around age 15. Their educational attainment was compared with a group of young people who were not depressed.

Among students with a diagnosis of depression, 83% reached expected educational attainment at ages 6 to 7, but only 45% hit more advanced thresholds in English and math by age 15 to 16. Researchers said that’s much lower than the 53% who met the threshold locally and nationwide.

“Previous research has found that, in general, depression in childhood is linked to lower school performance,” said researcher Alice Wickersham, a doctoral student at NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre of King’s College London.

But young people who developed depression in secondary school typically showed a performance decline on the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams. The exams — taken by most pupils at about age 15 to 16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland — dovetailed with the time of diagnosis for many young people.

The pattern appeared to be consistent across different genders, ethnicities and economic groups, Wickersham said in a research center news release.

“While it’s important to emphasize that this won’t be the case for all teenagers with depression, it does mean that many may find themselves at a disadvantage for this pivotal educational milestone,” Wickersham said.

“It highlights the need to pay close attention to teenagers who are showing early signs of depression. For example, by offering them extra educational support in the lead up to their GCSEs, and working with them to develop a plan for completing their compulsory education,” she added.

Researcher Dr. Johnny Downs, senior lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London, said the findings have two key policy implications.

“It demonstrates just how powerful depression can be in reducing young people’s chances at fulfilling their potential, and provides a strong justification for how mental health and educational services need to work to detect and support young people prior to critical academic milestones,” he said.

The findings were published online Oct. 8 in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

More information

For more about teens and depression, head to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Study: Teens who vape nicotine more likely to also use cannabis e-cigarettes

Oct. 6 (UPI) — If teens are vaping nicotine, it’s likely they’re also using cannabis-based e-cigarettes and vice versa, according to a new analysis published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open.

The survey of more than 3,000 adolescents and teens from 10 high schools in the Los Angeles area found that older teens who identified as frequent users of nicotine vaping devices were 25% more likely than others to be moderate users of cannabis e-cigarettes.

Those who started using nicotine-based e-cigarettes in adolescence also were 46% more likely than others to become frequent cannabis vapers, the researchers said.

The trends suggest high levels of “poly-substance” use among teens who vape, according to the researchers. Poly-substance use is a term used in addiction medicine to describe dependence on two or more drugs.

“Poly-substance nicotine and cannabis vaping appears to be the norm, compared to nicotine-only or cannabis-only vaping for adolescents and young adults,” study co-author H. Isabella Lanza told UPI.

“If your teen vapes one substance, it’s highly likely they are or will vape other substances,” said Lanza, an associate professor of human development at California State University-Long Beach.

E-cigarette use among teens has been seen as a significant public health challenge in recent years, with research indicating that as many as one in four teens vape.

In 2019, more than 2,500 teens suffered from e-cigarette- or vaping-associated lung injury, or EVALI, with one young person in Michigan even requiring a lung transplant to treat the potentially dangerous condition.

In their research, Lanza and her colleagues surveyed 3,322 high school students on their use of vaping products.

Among those surveyed, 17% reported infrequent — one to two days per month — nicotine use and 18% indicated that they vaped cannabis infrequently, the data showed.

Moderate use — up to seven days per month — of nicotine and cannabis vaping products was reported by 5% and 7% of the teen respondents, respectively, while approximately 6% indicated frequent use — up to 19 days per month — of both, according to the researchers.

In addition to the health risks associated with vaping, teens who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to transition to traditional cigarettes — and possibly become heavy smokers — as adults, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests.

A separate analysis, published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open, found that the percentage of young adults who started smoking in early adulthood — aged 18 to 23 years — has more than doubled to 43% in 2018 from 21% in 2002.

“Although prevention strategies focused on adolescent vaping should remain prominent, efforts specifically addressing young adult vaping use may be warranted to substantially reduce nicotine and cannabis vaping,” Lanza said.