Why is screen time affecting our children’s and adults’ mental health?
We have all been told at one point or another that the younger generation spends too much time on their screens, but what is the real harm? New research suggests that it can lead to a decline in mental health. A study carried out by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Liverpool John Moores and Kingston has found that those who spend more time online are more likely to experience symptoms of depression. The research was based on data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS), a longitudinal survey that made annual measurements between 1958 and 1970. The analysed information was from 7,771 participants aged 16-22 in 2010 and again in 2011.
What is screen time?
Screen time refers to the amount of time that you spend looking at your smartphone, computer, or tablet. It doesn’t include the time spent when you are actually using these devices for work or school-related tasks. According to a study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, children who spend five hours of their free time in front of a screen are more than three times as likely to develop depression and anxiety. They also found that children between ages 8-11 were significantly more susceptible to these ailments. The report goes on to say that kids who spend less than an hour a day in front of screens show low levels of emotional problems.
What is behind the link between screen time and mental health?
Psychological research has found that screens can be addictive which results in users doing more and more. These constant views of screens can also lead to an anxious attachment to the device, a lack of empathy, and some viewers may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t use the device for long periods of time. A study was conducted by the University of Massachusetts that included 759 adults in America and it was found that those who watched television for more than two hours each day on average reported higher levels of anxiety and depression. Those who also watched five or more hours of video content on a computer or laptop reported higher levels of loneliness. These findings could reflect a greater likelihood for individuals to isolate themselves when using these devices which can lead to depression and anxiety because they are not interacting with others. It
How does this issue affect the whole of society?
The issue of screen time seems to be affecting our children’s mental health. The effects go beyond the individual and can affect society as a whole. For example, the more time kids spend in front of screens, the less time they are able to learn from their other interactions with people. This is a problem because there has been shown to be some relationship between face-to-face interaction and improved mental health. It’s also hard for parents to see what their kids are doing on screens since it’s so hard for them to know what content is age-appropriate for their kids and if that content is healthy or not.
How can parents limit screen time for children?
Parents should set time limits on the amount of screen time their children have each day. Parents can also explain to their children that they should try reading, drawing and playing outside instead of sitting in front of a screen all day. It is also important to monitor what their children are looking at online to make sure they are not viewing inappropriate material. Parents should also try instilling good habits into their children such as eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and exercising each day. Because of the constant availability and accessibility of screens, people are forgetting how to socialize with one another. This can lead to fewer friendships and greater isolation. Parents should spend more time with their children and get them outside. They could also set bedtime rules for their kids. Limiting screen time by using apps like Pzizz or Calmify can help as well.
The use of screen time has been linked to mental health issues in children and adults. The blue light from screens can disrupt natural sleep patterns, which leads to a decrease in the secretion of melatonin. This disrupts the circadian rhythm that is necessary for healthy mental and physical functioning. The increased exposure to violent content, plus social media interactions with people who are only showing their best side, also contributes to unhappiness.