Using phones and tablets is about as bad for teens as eating potatoes
Parents can relax about too much screen time: Using phones and tablets is about as bad for children as regularly eating potatoes and wearing glasses, Oxford study finds
- Only 0.4 per cent of an adolescent’s wellbeing is associated with technology use
- It is comparable to the impact of wearing glasses and regularly eating potatoes
- Smoking cannabis and being bullied found to be far worse for mental health
- These were 2.7 times and 4.3 times worse for adolescent mental health than screen use, respectively
Increased use of technology among young people has often been blamed for mental health concerns but scientists have found this to be a myth.
Oxford researchers found less than one percent of an adolescent’s wellbeing (0.4 per cent) is associated with technology use.
This, they claim, is comparable to the negative impact of wearing glasses and regularly eating potatoes.
Smoking cannabis and being bullied were found to be significantly worse for an individual’s mental state than prolonged screen time.
On average, these were 2.7 times and 4.3 times worse for adolescent mental health than phone and tablet use, respectively.
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Smoking marijuana and being bullied was found to be significantly worse for mental wellbeing than spending time on phones and tablets. On average, these had a 2.7 times and 4.3 times more negative association with adolescent mental health than screen use, respectively (stock)
Adequate amounts of sleep and regularly eating breakfast had a much stronger association with wellbeing than technology use.
‘Our findings demonstrate that screen use itself has at most a tiny association with youth mental health,’ says lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski of the University of Oxford.
‘The 0.4 per cent contribution of screen use on young people’s mental health needs to be put in context for parents and policymakers.
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‘Within the same dataset, we were able to demonstrate that including potatoes in your diet showed a similar association with adolescent wellbeing.
‘Wearing corrective lenses had an even worse association.’
Researchers studied three datasets including information on more than 300,000 teenagers between 2007 and 2016 in the US and UK.
Oxford researchers found less than one percent of an adolescent’s wellbeing (0.4 per cent) is associated with technology use. This, they claim, is comparable to the negative impact of wearing glasses and regularly eating potatoes (stock)
Academics then tried to conclusively put screen use in context of how bad it was for an individual’s mental health by using a different metric which removes bias.
‘We need to put scientific findings in context for parents, policymakers and the general public,’ Professor Przybylski added.
‘Our approach provides an excellent template for data scientists wanting to make the most of the excellent cohort data available in the UK and beyond.’
HOW MUCH SCREENTIME SHOULD TEENAGERS GET?
A recent study by San Diego State University found that the happiest teenagers were those who limited their daily digital media time to slightly less than two hours a day.
After this daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rose steadily with increasing screen time.
Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in American teenagers.
Study participants born after 2000 were less satisfied with life, had lower self-esteem and were unhappier than those who grew up in the 1990s.
Since 2012, the average teenager’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness has plummeted.
That year marked the point when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 per cent for the first time.
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