A new study published in Preventive Medicine Reports finds that as screen time goes up among children ages 2 to 17, psychological well-being goes down.
Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell surveyed caregivers about the amount of time children in their care spent watching TV and videos, playing video games, and using computers and mobile devices for activities other than schoolwork. The survey also asked caregivers to respond to questions about children’s emotional stability, relationships with caregivers, self-control, diagnoses of mood disorders, and mental health treatments.
Screen time averaged 3.20 hours per day, with the amount of time going up as children get older. In general, young people spending up to an hour with screens had similar results on measures of psychological well-being as students who did not spend time with screens. However, once screen time reached more than an hour, young people were rated lower on their ability to stay calm, finish tasks, learn new things, make friends, and avoid conflict with caregivers. In addition, children with higher levels of screen time were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The associations were largest among adolescents.
The researchers note that is not clear from their study whether the screen time leads to lower levels of well-being or whether lower levels of well-being leads to more screen time.
Source: Twenge, J. & Campbell, W.K. (2018, December). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive Medicine Reports, 12, 271-283.