New research from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia has shown a clear link between screen time and lower psychological wellbeing among children and adolescents.
A growing proportion of children and adolescents’ leisure time is spent with screens including smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and television. On average young kids spend 3.20 hours a day in front of a screen, with this number increasing the older children get. By high school (ages 14 to 17), adolescents spend 4 h and 35 min a day with screens.
After one hour a day of use, more hours of daily screen time were associated with lower psychological wellbeing, including less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, less emotional stability, being more difficult to care for, and inability to finish tasks.
Among the 14- to 17-year olds – more likely to have smartphones – twice as many high users (more than seven hours a day) versus low users (one hour or less) of screens had an anxiety or depression diagnosis. Moderate use of screens (4 hours per day) was also associated with lower psychological wellbeing.
Non-users and low users of screens generally did not differ in wellbeing. Alarmingly, the World Health Organization recently decided to include gaming disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.
In addition to the psychological impact, the associations between screen time and poor health outcomes such as obesity and lack of exercise have been well-documented.
Studies have also found that limiting your child’s screen time is also better for their cognition.