Are smartphones harming our children’s mental health? According to long-time child psychotherapist Julie Lynn Evans, the short answer is no. The long answer is that, while there has been a noticeable increase in children with certain emotional and mental issues over the users and smartphones may very well have a part to play in that, blaming technology is simply oversimplifying the problem in a way that doesn’t help anybody.
Julie Lynn Evans has been a child psychotherapist for 25 years, working in hospitals, schools and with families, and she says she has never been so busy. “In the 1990s, I would have had one or two attempted suicides a year – mainly teenaged girls taking overdoses, the things that don’t get reported. Now, I could have as many as four a month.” And it’s not, she notes, simply a question of her reputation as both a practitioner and a writer drawing so many people to the door of her cosy consulting rooms in west London where we meet. “If I try to refer people on, everyone else is choc-a-bloc too. We are all saying the same thing. There has been an explosion in numbers in mental health problems amongst youngsters.” The Care Minister, Norman Lamb, has this week been promising a “complete overhaul” of the system that deals with these troubled tweens and teens, after a Department of Health report highlighted the negative impact of funding cuts. And the three main party leaders have all made encouraging pre-election noises about putting more resources into mental health services.