From anxiety, to eating disorders, to depression, we are living in a period where young people’s mental health is the worst in recorded history.
As these types of illnesses are rising, so too is the amount of time young people are spending online and on social media. But within these trends is another one: girls seem to be suffering in larger numbers than boys.
The rate of depression for those who spend five hours
or more online is 15% for young males. But for girls it’s more than double that, at 38%.
(And although suicide rates of boys are 3 times higher than that of girls, the gap between the two sexes is narrowing globally).
In an age where young people are growing up surrounded by social media, beauty trends and
increased online interaction, it’s little wonder the younger generation are both influenced and affected by what they see on their phones.
Beauty has appeared in different forms throughout the ages and has historically put pressure on women leading to low self esteem and body confidence. According to statistics from the USA national survey: Drug & Health use
girls from Generation Z are 3 times more unhappy than the previous generation. The pressure to reach this beauty ideal has reached its highest level with social media and online
marketing delivering a brutal message, especially for young girls.
’You must be flawless, always, to be beautiful and if not, you are nothing until you fix yourself.’
According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, almost 229,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients between the ages of
13 and19 in 2020. A survey by The Girls’ Attitudes revealed that 69%
of adolescent girls think they are not beautiful enough. Looking at all these statistics, we see the issue of low self-esteem is the biggest problem for adolescent girls.
How can we cut girls screen time to keep them healthy physically and emotionally?
Undoubtedly, sports and physical activity are very
important for the mental health of all ages, specifically
young adolescents. According to the Monitoring of Future 8th
Grade survey from 2009 to 2015, the depression rate is highest amongst adolescents who
spent time the most time online. While the lowest
depression levels are in adolescents who engage in regular sports and exercise.
Sports and physical activity not only play a critical role in preventing depression but are also very important to developing adolescent girls’ self-esteem.
The University of Georgia Psychology Department conducted a study into early sports participation and self-esteem in girls. All 220 female university students studied who play sports and were involve in early sports participation had higher self-esteem compared to people who don’t.
In 2018 the Women in Sports Foundation Teen Sports Report found that 40%
of teenage girls are not participating in any sporting activities. It has been
demonstrated that spending too much time online is negatively affecting the well-being of girls. Generation Z are digital natives, and this is unique. Their
reasoning, communication and socializing are vastly
different to every previous generation.
It would be an unrealistic problem-solving approach to ban social media or beauty filters as some USA Senators have suggested in Congress. However, if governments correctly implement early sports participation strategies and promote physical activity well and parents encourage their girls in sports especially adolescence times, we will see a substantial drop in the average screen time usage statistics. Probably by more than half the current time which would provide a huge benefit to their mental health.
When we consider all data, and the situation
Generations Z and Alpha are facing it is heart breaking. Finally, raising healthy girls is crucial for the development of society. We must help them by using
sports to stay healthy physically and emotionally for the future of our world.
Sports Management Consultant working with the Turkish Youth and Sports Ministry &
Sports Marketing Advisor at the Beautiful Game Group
Was Sports Researcher for the Refinery Canadian Consulting Company.
Eda’s undergraduate degree is in Sports Science, and Eda holds 2 Masters Degrees – One from the Delaware State University and One in Educational Administration in Turkey.
Eda is also an ultramarathon swimmer and was an Olympic swimming coach for Turkey also.
 Twenge, J. M. (2017). IGen: why today’s supe