Research by Oxford University scientists finds “little evidence of a relationship between screen time and wellbeing in adolescents.” Based on data from over 17,000 teenagers, the study “casts doubt on the widely accepted notion that spending time online, gaming or watching TV, especially before bedtime, can damage young people’s mental health.”
This isn't the first time a scientific study has disproven the notion of a direct link between the amount of time teenagers spend on devices and their well-being, but it's good to know we can worry less about teens' time on-screen. Read the rest
There's too much screen time, and then there's too much screen time.
This 13-year-old boy stays at an Internet cafe in the Philippines for days at a time, addicted to his favorite video game, Rules of Survival. Rather than drag his ass home and tell the cafe not to let him back in, his mother comes over with a plate of food to feed him while his eyes stay glued to the screen. He swats her hand away a few times, seeming annoyed that she is interrupting his playtime. And this isn't just a passing fancy, according to Oddity Central — the boy has been glued to a screen for a couple of years now.
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37-year-old Lilybeth Marvel first noticed there was something wrong with her son Carlito about two years ago, when he began staying up late at an internet cafe near the family home in Nueva Ecija, the Philippines. Things got progressively worse as time went by, to the point where the 13-year-old now spends days on end with his eyes glued to a monitor playing his favorite “battle royale” video game, Rules of Survival. Last week, Mrs. Marvel was filmed delivering her son’s breakfast to the internet cafe and hand feeding him while he continued to play, because he had been there for over 48 hours.
After the footage went viral, the mother took to the internet to explain that she and her husband had tried a rough approach at first, by banning Carlito from going to the internet cafe.
In a heavy-duty new scientific paper published this week, University of Oxford researchers argue that the association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use is tiny. Really tiny. From Scientific American:
(The paper by experimental psychologist Andrew Przybylski and grad student Amy Orben) reveals the pitfalls of the statistical methods scientists have employed and offers a more rigorous alternative. And, importantly, it uses data on more than 350,000 adolescents to show persuasively that, at a population level, technology use has a nearly negligible effect on adolescent psychological well-being, measured in a range of questions addressing depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, pro-social behavior, peer-relationship problems and the like. Technology use tilts the needle less than half a percent away from feeling emotionally sound. For context, eating potatoes is associated with nearly the same degree of effect and wearing glasses has a more negative impact on adolescent mental health...
“We’re trying to move from this mind-set of cherry-picking one result to a more holistic picture of the data set,” Przybylski says. “A key part of that is being able to put these extremely miniscule effects of screens on young people in real-world context.”
Not surprisingly though, your mileage may vary. Not surprisingly, it all depends on the kid and what they're actually doing on the screen.
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In a previous paper, Przybylski and colleague Netta Weinstein demonstrated a “Goldilocks” effect showing moderate use of technology—about one to two hours per day on weekdays and slightly more on weekends—was “not intrinsically harmful,” but higher levels of indulgence could be.
The debates about screen time and kids are really confused: the studies have contradictory findings, and the ones that find negative outcomes in kids who spend a lot of time on their screens struggle to figure out the cause-and-effect relationship (are depressed kids using screens more because that's how they get help, or do kids become depressed if they use their screen a lot?).
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