Suicide rates for teens have risen between 2010 and 2015 after a nearly two decade decline according to data from the US federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Why the rates went up isn’t known but the rates among US teens occurred at the same time social media use surged. A new analysis suggests there could be a link. The study’s authors looked at CDC suicide reports from 2009-15 and the results of two surveys given to US high school students to measure attitudes, behaviours and interests. About half a million teens ages 13 to 18 were involved.

Researchers found that spending time away from the screen and engaging in social interaction, sports and exercise, doing homework, etc. was linked to having fewer depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes.

“We need to stop thinking of smartphones as harmless,” said study author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. She stated that monitoring kids’ use of smartphones and social media is important and so is setting reasonable limits.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, a teen medicine specialist at the University of New Mexico, said that although the study only implies the connection between depression, teen suicides and social media, it shows the need for more research on new technology.

With its immediacy, anonymity and potential for bullying, social media have a unique potential of causing real harm. “Parents don’t really get that,” Strasburger said. provides a summary of the study’s data highlights.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash