The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said emergency room visits by teenage girls for suspected suicide attempts doubled in 2021. Amid a mental health crisis, how worried should parents be about the mental health of their tween daughters? LA Times columnist Robin Abcarian wrote about how social media, isolation and bullying are affecting young girls. Abcarian joined host Lisa McRee on “LA Times Today.”

Some of the struggles teens face today are caused by because they have grown up during a pandemic. Author Mary Pipher wrote a book called “Reviving Ophelia” in 1994 that created conversation around teen mental health. In a 2019 update, she wrote about how social media has affected teenagers’ psyches.

“What she found most especially was that social media and technology was the thing that had changed the most in the interim 30 years since she had first published her book. She said it was an almost intractable problem that girls particularly are immersed in their screens, and their apps and social media. I’s changing how they think of themselves and look at themselves,” Abcarian explained. 

Meta, the parent company of Instagram, has been aware of the negative impact of their apps on young girls’ mental wellbeing, but has not taken significant steps to address the issue. Abcarian shared the personal reason why she wrote about tween mental health. 

“I am raising my 12-year-old niece. My biological daughter is almost 30 years old. So I’d gone through it with her before. But technology threw me a curveball. My daughter had a flip phone when she was maybe 14. My niece has a Chromebook, an iPad, a phone, although no apps on the phone. She constantly has her nose in screens. It’s probably our biggest fight; our biggest struggle is to get her outside to play and just turn off the devices,” she said. 

For parents of pre-teens, there is a popular trend called “Wait Until 8th” where kids do not get smartphones before eighth grade. 

“This was started by some parents a few years ago. They say, and I fully embrace this idea, that kids don’t need iPhones until at least eighth grade, if not later. The social pressure on kids is so intense. My niece comes home from school almost every day saying, ‘so-and-so’s getting an iPhone next week. When am I getting one?’... I’ve got her something called a Gabb phone. She can call or receive calls, texts, and take pictures, but no apps,” Abcarian shared. 

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