Kids and teens predictably spent more time in front of their screens during lockdown. But a new study revealed even higher results than expected.
Screen time was a concern long before the pandemic. Now, following a year of remote learning and social distancing measures, it’s become inevitable, with there being much bigger concerns for us to worry about. A recent study conducted on teens found that while screen time for schools predictably increased, so did screen time for recreational purposes.
Published in JAMA pediatrics, the study was conducted on kids and teens between the ages of 10 to 14 years old. It found that screen time unrelated to online school jumped from 3.8 hours a day to 7.7 hours.
Researchers used data to compare teens’ screen time from 2016 to 2020. Results showed that more screen time was correlated with worse mental health, increased stress, and poor physical health. They theorize that the connection between poor mental health and screen time is bi-directional, meaning that declining mental health results in teens using more screens, which then makes for worse mental health.
While unsurprising to many, these results were shocking for health care experts, who said that kids had put the same amount of hours into their screens as adults do into their work. “That’s a pretty crazy phenomenon when you consider they were also on screens for 5 to 7 hours a day for school,” Dr. Michael Rich told USA Today.
While the use of social media during the pandemic was the main form of communication between friends and people who lived in different households, according to the study, screen time wasn’t used for this purpose. “More screen time was linked to poorer mental health and greater stress among teens,” lead researcher Dr. Jason Nagata told CNN. Researchers theorize that this could be explained due to “doomscrolling,” since more time on screens prevented children from engaging in healthy online behaviors.
Researchers recommend setting screen time limits for children, especially since screen time usage will likely remain at a higher level than in pre-pandemic times. Leading by example goes a long way, ensuring that devices are off for all family members during meals and family time. Still, some leniency is necessary; while schools are transitioning into a back-to-in-person format, there will likely be remote days and online activities.