SPECIAL REPORT: “I felt the most inadequate,” excessive phone usage impacts mental health

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral)- Technology is always evolving and nowadays everything we need is at the convenience of our fingertips. However, that convenience can come at a mental cost.

“I think we have lost touch with reality in that respect and I think we have to be very careful… because the further go down that hole, the more divisive we will continue to be,” commented Harlingen’s mother, Rebecca McBride.

For McBride, she typically uses her phone 10 to 12 hours a day, but only to keep in touch with her daughter who attends an out-of-state college, her husband who works at Space X all day, and to run her remote cookie business.

McBride said her cellphone is the only link she has with the people closest to her, but that it also links her to negativity. She added that there’s a lot of divisiveness that happens over social media and she has noticed people will comment on hurtful messages that they may not say in person.

First-year medical student at UTRGV, Lesley Chapa told ValleyCentral that those comments are a part of the reason she unplugged. She said it’s essential to unplug from social media whether that is every day, once a week, once a month, or leaving altogether.

Chapa constantly found herself scrolling through social media for hours a time to keep with those she was following and what everyone was doing.

Chapa came to the realization that it was a “huge time sync” which in turn led to a mental setback.

“I felt the most inadequate,” mentioned Chapa. “I felt pray to this comparison trap and the thinking that whatever I was doing was not enough.”

South Texas Health System’s Behavioral Director, Joseph Garcia LPS-C recommends no more than 2 hours a day on our phones. If that time limit is exceeded, then feelings like Chapa’s are common.

For children ages two to five, one hour of screen time for non-educational use is recommended.

Garcia added that there are strong correlations between screen time and depression, decreased social behavior, impaired ability to regulate certain emotions, and even sometimes suicidal behavior.

STHS has seen a 30% increase in difficulty with socialization in patients who mention an extraordinary amount of screen time, especially over the last 20 months, according to Garcia.

Most of those patients who have told STHS doctors that they have an extreme amount of phone usage are adolescents and teenagers.

To avoid the side effects of phone usage, Garcia said to set limits because “setting boundaries is crucial to anyone who is trying to regulate their screen time.” He also suggests disconnecting and reconnecting with loved ones.

McBride also commented that following the right people and positive influences can help reduce that mental impact.

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