Childhood Mobile Phone Use Linked to Mental Health Issues: Report

mobile phones for kids
In a recent report by Sapien Labs which was also shared by the former VP of Xiaomi India, Manu Kumar Jain, it is very risky to give mobile phones to kids. The report by Sapien Labs examines how owning a mobile phone at a young age affects factors such as social engagement, self-esteem, and suicidal tendencies. The report is based on data from 27,969 Generation Z young adults (ages 18-24) from 34 countries where the decline in the mental well-being of young adults had started prior to the pandemic.
mobile phones for kids
This study is very important because we often find an increasing number of kids owning their own mobile phones. According to Common Sense Media in a 2021 report, teens between the age of 13 years and 18 years spend 8.4 hours on average every day on entertainment screens. Also, the report also shows that those between 8 years and 12 years spend an average of 5.3 hours. This, of course, should be of serious concern considering the possible effect of mobile phones on these kids.

According to this study, those between the ages of 18 and 24 who got their first mobile phone (or tablet) at a later age had, on average, better mental health and therefore fewer issues with suicidal thoughts, feelings of hostility towards other people, and a sense of separation from reality. This suggests a cumulative impact of childhood mobile phone use on adults. The report also reveals that this effect could be worse in females. According to the report, 60% – 70% of females that use mobile phones before they are 10 years experience mental health issues as adults. Although men are not immune, the cases are lower. About 45% – 50% of men who use mobile phones before age 10 face similar issues in old age.

mobile phones for kids

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Childhood mobile phone use is a risk

The report found that there are long-term improvements in mental well-being for each year of delay in getting a mobile phone during childhood. As the age of the first smartphone goes up, so does the mental health reported by young adults, assessed by the Mental Health Quotient (MHQ). The percentage of females with mental health challenges decreased from 74% for those who received their first mobile phone at age 6 to 46% for those who received it at age 18. In males, the percentage dropped from 42% who received their first mobile phone at age 6 to 36% who received it at age 18.

mobile phones for kids
The Sapien Labs dataset comes from an ongoing survey of global mental well-being, along with various lifestyle and life experience factors. It acquires data using an assessment that spans 47 elements covering a wide range of symptoms and experiences. The study began in 2019 so it cannot show us trends since 2010, but it can show us how young adults are doing today and link variations in mental health today to variations in the age of the first mobile phone.
The report suggests that mobile phones could be responsible for an ongoing decline in the mental health of young adults in the 18-24 age range. Before the internet, by the time someone turned 18, they would have spent “15,000 to 25,000 hours interacting with other people face-to-face.” However, mobile phones have changed this dynamic and young people who lack these skills can end up detached from society and feel suicidal.
Sapien Labs


The report by Sapien Labs highlights the possible relationship between childhood smartphone use and current mental health. It suggests that there are long-term improvements in mental well-being for each year of delay in getting a smartphone during childhood. The report also found that as age of first mobile phone goes up, so does the mental health reported by young adults. The study provides compelling evidence for parents who have held out on giving their young offspring a handheld window to the world. 

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