For a while now, it’s been recommended that screen time for children and teens should be limited to two hours daily. A new study, however, does not corroborate findings from past studies. Limiting screen time for youngsters may not be as imperative as we’ve been led to believe.
What The Research is Now Showing
Surely, anyone’s face in front of a screen every waking hour is unhealthy, regardless of age. Data from over 6,000 teens (16 years old on average) was analyzed in the new study. The research conducted out of Stetson University showed that the link between excessive screen time and mood disorders and misguided behavior are minimal.
The data collected was from teen questionnaires. The participants were asked about the amount of time they spent on screens daily. They also answered questions about their nightly amount and quality of sleep. Additionally, the teens were asked about their personal and family relationships, risky behaviors, drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, and if they experienced feelings of depression.
The amount of time spent on social media or electronics was found to have no impact on reckless driving, promiscuity, or substance abuse. The association between large amounts of screen time and higher levels of depression were very slight. Even up to six hours a day of screen use showed no significant negative impact on the youngsters’ mental well-being.
Any negative outcomes were extremely low. And although the participants were equal in number (make and female), the males tended to be more affected by excessive screen time.
Is There a Clear Picture?
The discrepancy in “screen time” studies over the past few years seem to have one element in common: screen time recommendations are merely estimates. The actual optimum time (where very little negative results ensue) is just not clear. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer offers a recommended amount of screen time for children and teens. They had been advocating a maximum or two hours a day, but they can’t offer appropriate guidance when the findings are not necessarily clear.
How the Time is Spent
Perhaps a more valuable element, instead of the questioning the amount of time, is examining how the time is spent. How are children and teens using their time while on the screens? This seems a consideration more worthy.
If websites are compelling our youngsters to read and learn, then they are an educational tool as praiseworthy as a book or a professor’s lecture. Kids are teaching themselves how to play instruments and explore foreign languages on their electronic devices. Even gaming provides a social outlet.
Just as one would advise for anything else, moderation is the key. Screens before bed definitely disrupt sleep patterns, so shut them down at least a half an hour before turning in. Monitoring the sites your children visit is not a bad idea. But if your teen is using screens a few hours a day, you can stop worrying that his/her mental health is at stake. It’s just a sign of the times…