No connection between the amount of time spent online and mental health
Some parents are worried about the phenomenon that kids spend a lot of time looking at screens. But a new study dispels the apprehension parents may feel.
“The problem is that parents are hearing a message that social media, digital technology use is causing very serious and harmful problems like depression, like suicide-related behaviors.” Candice Odgers, professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine.
“If you shut off social media, which lots of kids use to connect with each other, their friends, find out information about health, you could in fact be making a situation worse. Parents are really being sent a message that is not supported by anything scientifically.”
Odgers and her colleagues looked at the screen-related behavior of 400 public-school students in North Carolina ages 10 to 14. The researchers found that—even not counting time doing schoolwork on screens—the kids spent between almost five hours to seven hours per day on their devices, with the older kids online the most. That's a lot of hours, but: “Overall, what we find is no connection between the amount of time that young people spend online using digital technologies and mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety. When we do find associations, they were actually quite surprising to us. We found that young people who sent more text messages actually reported better mental health. Now, again, this was a small association, but it reflects what other people have found: that people who are very connected off-line, that use technology in the positive ways to stay connected often, are more connected online as well and experiencing better mental health.”