Teen alert on screen time
irritable or aggressive. But it’s the way of the future after all?
It shouldn’t be. From the 1960s to the 2000s, measures of wellbeing rose consistently, especially for teens. This data measures things like selfesteem, happiness, job satisfaction and friendships.
Since 2012, however, the trend started to reverse and data shows wellbeing steadily decreasing. It is also the year smartphone ownership tipped over to the majority of mobile phone users; the year their use became widespread among teens. And, it’s the year data shows a surge in depression, anxiety and suicide.
A new study shows this is not just coincidence. More than 1.1 million young people answered questions on their wellbeing and screen time. The data showed too much screen time is toxic. Teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, depressed, anxious and even suicidal. In fact, nearly half of teens who spent five or more hours a day on a device had contemplated, planned or attempted suicide.
Our teens are in the midst of a mental health crisis, and screens are a contributor to the problem.
But it’s not all bad news. University of Oxford researchers have discovered there is a point between low and high use of technology that is “just right” for our teens. This is the magical intersection where digital connection can increase creativity, communication and development, and where wellbeing is boosted rather than harmed. This is the “Goldilocks Zone”.
It’s our job to help our teens use screens in a way and in an amount that boosts their wellbeing. There are guidelines that can help us.
Use your common sense: As parents, you know your children best. Trust yourself. Be discerning and exercise your own good judgment when it comes to screen time.
Consider content and context in determining limits: While some people get caught up on “how much” screen time is OK, my preference is to focus on “what type” of screen time is best. If their screen diet is junk, keep it short, just like you limit the amount of sugar they eat. If they’re doing valuable and legitimate learning or truly useful social things, be more flexible.
Content matters: So does context. It’s not OK to have screens in rooms or at the table. You may have other rules too. The context should determine whether kids are OK to be on screens. Friends over? No screens. Chores done, homework done, and reading done? Sure, have some fun on screens. When considering all the things our kids are missing out on when they are on screens – time to develop and deepen relationships, to be creative and to engage in physical activity – we want to be intentional about how and when screens are used.
Encourage other activities: When your kids ask to play video games or use the tablet, have a list of things ready to suggest instead. Have you played outside? Have you spent time with a friend? Have you read a book? Have you tidied your room?
By engaging in these types of activities, children will do much more for their brains, their bodies and their wellbeing. Active, positive use of screens should be encouraged but as parents we know when enough is enough. And teens have had enough.