A new study reveals that teens’ wellbeing took a hit as their screen time was dramatically stepped up during the lockdowns due to Covid.
According to the report, among US teens, recreational screen time doubled to nearly 8 hours every day during the pandemic when compared to before the pandemic.
During The Pandemic, Adolescents’ Screen Time Doubled
The researchers said that the total was likely much higher as this figure did not even include the time they spent on schoolwork or remote learning.
Dr. Jason Nagata said that poorer mental health and stress have been linked to more screen time among teens. He was the lead researcher and also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
He added that social connections can be fostered through social media and video chat, but teens still felt less social support during the pandemic.
A survey of over 5000 adolescents in the country was conducted. These were mostly 12 and 13-year-olds.
The time these teens spent playing games, using social media, texting, browsing, watching movies, and video chatting was monitored by Nagata’s team.
The survey showed that when compared to all the takers of the survey, those originating from black, Hispanic, and lower-income households spent more time in front of the screen.
Nagata said that factors such as a deficiency of money for different activities or lack of access to outdoor spaces that are safe may have contributed to this.
Nagata said that parents should remain watchful regardless of the reasons for the rise.
He said that even though many important educational benefits can be derived from these devices, adverse mental health risks still exist and parents have to try and mitigate these.
He said that parents should develop a family media plan and talk to their teenagers about screen time. This could involve setting caps on screen time, avoiding screens before bedtime, and encouraging time away from the screen.
Nagata said that parents should act as role models for their children with their own screen time practices.
He said that some of the teens will be able to transition their school and social activities to in-person as the pandemic subsides, but due to the increased availability of hybrid options, compared to pre-pandemic levels, screen usage is likely to remain higher.
Dr. Pamela Pietra reviewed the findings and said that it was striking how the screen time usage had increased by 4 hours.
She said that screen time disparities from before the pandemic had been strengthened as Black and Hispanic children had almost 30% more screen time than their white counterparts.
She noted that poorer mental health was linked to more screen time along with greater stress.
In addition, lower overall screen usage was linked to social support and coping behaviors.
The limitations of the study were that the screen time was self-reported by the teens and prior to the pandemic, their social support was not clear.
Pietra said that an unhealthy and growing trend has been highlighted by the findings of the study.
She said that the importance and necessity of investigations into differential screen usage and factors of mental health, like the study conducted by Nagata’s team are incredibly important.
Ellen Wartella was very interested in seeing how the findings of this study compared to other studies that are still ongoing. She is a professor of communications at Northwestern University.
She said that the fact that the overall screen usage in this sample has increased so much suggests that among other studies, this must be compared to find out how robust it is. Especially as they are being conducted simultaneously.
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