“Jenny is in one of her moods again,” said her mother. “I just wish she would let me know what is bothering her. Every time I try to ask her about what is going on, she just growls and storms up to her room.” The teen years can be a difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. There are a lot of changes as adolescents become more aware of their feelings and social relationships. Throw in puberty and adolescents’ mood can change as frequently as the weather.
The difficulty for parents is to spot the difference between ordinary teen moodiness and when there are more significant issues developing. For example, it is typical for all teenagers to spend a fair amount of time alone in their bedroom. Some of this alone time allows them to sort out all of the new experiences and feelings they are going through. However, there comes a point where the alone time becomes too much. Depression can be a real concern for teenagers. It is estimated that 11% of adolescents will experience clinical depression before the age of 18. Given the fairly high frequency of depression the question becomes, at what point is teens’ alone time too much? It can be difficult to gauge particularly when parents have busy lives of their own.
Now there is a way to monitor adolescents’ mood using technology. Mood 24/7 (https://www.mood247.com/) is a free site that utilizes text messaging to survey adolescents’ mood. The website provides teens the capability of having daily text messages sent asking about their mood. The teen responds and the site then tracks the teen’s mood over time. The results can then be shared with family members though they don’t have to be. The advantages of using Mood 24/7 are that it utilizes an appealing format through text messaging and it is quick and easy.
In addition, the daily feedback and graphing over time can make adolescents more aware of their moods and may even encourage them to seek out help earlier if they see their mood trending towards depression. I think teens will like this technology as it can supplement activities such as writing in diaries which can help them work through the issues they are experiencing on their way to adulthood. Some teens may even feel comfortable enough to let their parents be involved in the mood monitoring which gives parents one more way to track their teen’s feelings.
While technology will never replace an in-person heart to heart talk, it can give parents valuable insights and awareness of on-going issues. Then when it is time to have the talk, teens will feel like their parents are really listening to their concerns and will be more open to talking in the future.
This article was published in the Richmond Register Health Beat Magazine in April 2013.