IT'S a question concerned parents and guardians ask about adolescents Australia-wide: how do devices and connectivity impact their upbringing?
An author and lawyer will tell an audience in Warrnambool this Friday that social media and online games have caused addictions among young people and triggered increased reports of anxiety and depression.
David Gillespie, author of Teen Brain, said "traditional" risky teenage behaviours such as substance abuse had declined, but in the past decade teen mental health conditions had significantly increased.
"The reason for that is that we have replaced traditional addictions with electronic addictions, we have replaced it with software explicitly written to addict," Mr Gillespie said. "You can't get the increased rates we are seeing as just an artefact of people being more aware of mental health."
Software companies have deliberately engineered social media networks and games to be addictive, he said, and parents, schools and young people needed to be wary.
"I recommend trying to have a school that doesn't distribute devices or require them in the classroom, and if you can't do that you have to implement harm minimisation ... control when and how it is accessed, never in the bedroom, always in a public space where a parent can see," he said.
Mr Gillespie admitted his views weren't popular among teens, but pointed out when he removed devices during school holidays from his children, the only consequence was initial restlessness.
"Once the addiction is removed people will generally find something else to do. What they are doing is allowing their dopamine to recover. As soon as you turn off access to that it completely resets," he said.
Mr Gillespie is visiting the south-west to launch Warrnambool's Wellbeing Week, which will also include experts and advocates speaking about resilience, accepting diverse appearances, and finding purpose.
Warrnambool Student Wellbeing Association executive officer Shane Wilson said the event had drawn experts to Warrnambool.
"One of the challenges we face here is that we are far away from the big cities, so we don't get access to the thought leaders in the area," he said.
"This is our second annual Warrnambool Wellbeing Week, we pool our resources for one week and get these experts in their field."
Warrnambool Wellbeing Week starts with Mr Gillespie's ticketed address at Brauer College this Friday at 7.30pm and continues with other events at the Lighthouse Theatre until August 29. Tickets can be reserved online.
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