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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Don’t blame tech for teen suicides

Don’t blame technology for teen suicides, writes Mike Males in the Washington Monthly. Rates are much higher for rural and small-town whites — teens and adults — than for urban dwellers.

Smartphones and social media addiction have “destroyed a generation,” argues Jean Twenge, a San Diego State psychology professor, in the Atlantic.

She cites several surveys indicating teens who use more social media also report being more depressed; depression among teens is rising, as is suicide; the increases in both track the introduction of the smartphone in 2012; therefore, the smartphone must be causing or contributing to more teens killing themselves.

“The trend in suicide rates among teens basically tracks the trend among the adults around them,” Males responds. Furthermore, “rising suicide is overwhelmingly a feature of rural America, where teenagers have less access to smartphones and use Facebook less than urban teens do.

“Los Angeles and New York City teenagers have lots of smartphones” and plenty of stress, writes Males. “Yet teenagers living in and around the nation’s two largest cities are one-fourth as likely to commit suicide as teenagers in rural areas.”

Centers for Disease Control

More than half of Los Angeles and New York youth have at least one immigrant parent, Males points out. “Asians and Latinos who make up the bulk of immigrants have distinctly lower suicide rates than native-born populations.”

Rural and suburban areas where whites are concentrated are seeing “suicide, firearms, and addiction-related ‘deaths of despair‘” rising rapidly, Males writes. Foster-care placements and teen homelessness are up. Opioid abuse is epidemic. If the kids aren’t alright, the fault is not in their phones.

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