Number of depressed teens rising, experts blame sexting

The number of depressed teens and those with anxiety disorders is growing, and psychiatry experts are blaming sexting and online bullying for it.

Figures from the Priory Group, the country's largest organisation for mental health hospitals and clinics, show admissions for anxiety in teenagers has risen by 50 per cent in only four years, the Daily Mail reports.

Back in 2010, a total of 178 boys and girls aged 12 to 17 were admitted to one of its centres with severe depression or anxiety. In 2014, that number rose to 262. What’s even scarier is the fact that this number is even bigger, as there are hundreds of others on waiting lists who have been referred by GPs but have not yet been seen by a specialist.

Psychiatrists say sexting and online bullying are the main reasons behind this surge in depression and anxiety. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, primarily between mobile phones, and teens send it to their friends who then comment.

They say some see it as a 'form of courtship' and the chance to be noticed by the opposite sex.

But the photos can provoke extremely unkind comments, particularly if unflattering images of someone are sent round behind their backs.

Then there are also sites such as Ask.fm, where people can ask anonymous questions to one another. The aforementioned site was blamed for the death of four teenagers back in 2012 and 2013. All of them were victims of online bullying, where other kids, under the protection of anonymity, bullied and harassed the teens to their death.

Raj Samani VP and CTO for McAfee EMEA, comments: "It’s very upsetting to see that sexting and online bullying are having such an impact on the number of depressed teens and those with anxiety disorders.

"Recent research from Intel Security also highlighted the risks for teens, revealing that 67 per cent of children in the UK were allowed to go online unsupervised last year, an increase of almost 15 per cent from the year before - clearly showing a disconnect between what parents think is happening online and what is going on in reality.

"With over a third (35 per cent) of children admitting to experiencing cyber bullying first-hand and 40 per cent confessing to having witnessed cyber-bullying over the last year, it is important that parents not only speak to their children about online safety, but have ongoing conversations, ensuring they keep abreast of the latest social networks, online trends and security measures, so they’re fully armed with not only the right safety technologies, but also the knowledge needed to provide parental guidance both on and offline.

"It’s also imperative that if parents are setting up social profiles for their children, they feel empowered to be able to set the right security and privacy settings for their family across all devices."

Image Credit: Luis Sarabia