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New research finds negative correlation between longer screen time and childrens’ mental health

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, November 11, 2018  /  10:12 pm
New research finds negative correlation between longer screen time and childrens’ mental health

Seeing the youth glued to screens for hours is now a common sight in many places. A new study finds young people who spend seven hours or more of screen time a day are susceptible to developing depression and anxiety. (Shutterstock/Gary Perkin)

Seeing young people glued to screens for hours is now a common sight in many places. As reported by Time, a new study found that young people who spend seven hours or more of screen time a day are susceptible to developing depression and anxiety.

The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, surveying more than 40,000 children aged 2 to 17 in conjunction with Census Bureau’s 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health.

It found out that roughly 20 percent of teenagers aged 14 to 17 spend seven or more hours a day with eyes on the screen (excluding for schoolwork). Furthermore, it is also discovered that those teens are more easily distracted, less emotionally stable and have more problems finishing tasks and making friends. They were compared with teens who have one hour of screen time per day (aside from schoolwork).

Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, who is the study’s first author, said to Time that initially, she was surprised that the associations were larger for adolescents than for younger children.

“However, teens spend more time on their phones and on social media, and we know from other research that these activities are more strongly linked to lower well-being than watching TV and videos, which is most of younger children’s screen time,” Jean was quoted as saying.

Read also: Too much screen time, too little horseplay for kids: Study

While Jean concludes her study shows “a clear and strong” association between the length of screen time and level of wellbeing, and recommends screen-time restrictions for older kids following that for children aged 5 and younger, not everyone agrees.

“The authors appears to have cherry-picked outcome measures in terms of which results were statistically significant,” Andrew Przybylski, an associate professor and director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, told Time.

Andrew himself published a study last year that focused on an older version of the same Census Bureau data Jean had analyzed.

“It is true that there is a very small and consistent correlation in many datasets between screen time and a range of outcomes,” he said, adding that the correlation between increased screen time and mental health do not prove one is to blame for the other.

It is also possible that anxious, depressed kids are more likely to pay much more attention to the screen.

Another expert, Dr. Brian Primack, a professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Center for Research on Media Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, agrees that more research is needed, noting that parents have many reasons to be worried, when it comes to screen time, especially those related to social media and smartphones. (acr/mut)