Science 3 min read

New Study: Teens Are Not Damaged By Excess Screen Time

In a new study, researchers claim that previous notions of screen time affecting teenagers' mental wellbeing may not be entirely accurate.

This surprising study shows that multiple hours of screen time may not be the worst thing for teenagers. ¦ Pexels

This surprising study shows that multiple hours of screen time may not be the worst thing for teenagers. ¦ Pexels

Health professionals and parents have often expressed worries about how excessive screen time is harmful to adolescents.

About 65 percent of parents say they worry about their teens’ screen time while the remaining 35 percent say they worry a lot. The worries originate from previous studies which suggest that excessive screen time damages adolescents’ physical and mental health.

As a result, 57 percent of the parents say they put a limit on the time their kids spend online as well as on their phones.

However, a recent study revealed that the fears might be unwarranted.

According to researchers at Oxford University, there’s little evidence to suggest that the amount of time teenagers spend on their smartphones or tablets affects their general well-being.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and co-author of the study, questioned the methodology of previous studies.

He wrote:

“While psychological science can be a powerful tool for understanding the link between screen use and adolescent wellbeing, it still routinely fails to supply stakeholders and the public with high-quality, transparent and objective investigations into growing concerns about digital technologies.”

Previous studies on adolescent screen-time depended heavily on self-reporting. And, according to the author, this method cannot be accurate.

Infrequent users often overestimate their screen time on any given day. Heavy users, on the other hand, tend to underestimate the time they spend on their device.

So, what method did Przybylski and his team of Oxford University researchers use?

How Excessive Screen Time Has Little Impact On Adolescent’s Well-Being

The Oxford University researchers used data from the United States, Ireland and the UK in the study.

Rather than depend on self-reporting like the previous studies, the researchers combined the method with the time-diary technique. They asked 17,000 adolescents to record their activities at specific times of the day.

Here is the interesting part; the researchers did not collect the data themselves. Instead, they culled from previous studies dated between 2011 and 2016.

Co-author of the study, Amy Orben told BBC;

“Because technologies are embedded in our social and professional lives, research concerning digital screen use and its effects on adolescent wellbeing is under increasing scrutiny.”

Although another recent study in the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) reached a similar conclusion, several health professionals don’t believe the review is detailed enough.

Speaking about the RCPCH study, chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr. Bernadka Dubicka said:

“The study looks at how long children spend looking at screens but not at what harmful content they might see. We know that screen time is not the main driver of mental illness, but dangerous online content can have an enormous impact on young people and their mental health.”

The findings come ahead of the British government White Paper, to address social media companies on a range of content.

These include self-harm and promotion of suicide, cyber-bullying, harassment, as well as child sexual abuse imagery.

Read More: Touchscreens Might Interfere with Childhood Development

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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