Impact of Screen Time on Teens
Research is showing that teens are spending a large amount of time on screens and it’s negatively impacting their overall well-being. According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the typical teen logs more than seven hours a day and more than 50 hours a week in front of a TV, computer, tablet, or cell phone screen. Here are some of the latest findings from recent studies about how screen time impacts our teens’ lives:
- Research from Cambridge University suggests that, for every hour a teen spends on screens during their leisure time, teens score nine fewer points on standardized testing.
- In a Norway study, teens with screen time of more than four hours per day were three-and-a-half times more likely to sleep fewer than five hours at night and 49% more likely to need more than 60 minutes to fall asleep.
- In research from the University of California, Los Angeles, sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions and computers.
- In a 2010 study of teens in the American Journal of Epidemiology, teens who spent the most time in front of a screen had the greatest increase in body fat over time. Kids who watch more than five hours of TV a day also tend to eat less healthy later in life, according to another study from the University of Minnesota.
- Research from Iowa State University suggests that video games that involve war, violence, and murder can make you more aggressive and less sympathetic toward other people.
- According to a study published by Public Health England, and corroborated by a study from the University of Pittsburgh, excessive screen time – defined as more than four hours a day – was linked to anxiety and depression in teens.
Signs of Too Much Screen Time
While screens are an important facet of our lives, they must be used in moderation to ensure our overall well-being. Here are some signs that your teen might be having too much screen time:
- Misses parties or other events to spend time on screens.
- Eats in front of TV or computer.
- Goes to bed with the TV on.
- Stays up too late watching TV, texting, playing games, or going online.
- Has difficulty sleeping or is very tired.
- Feels anxious about things they have seen on TV or social media.
- Experiences headaches or eye strain while looking at screens.
- Feels irritable or moody after screen time.
Ways to Decrease Screen Time
There are ways for parents to decrease their teen’s screen time:
- Do not allow TVs or computers in your teen’s bedroom.
- Establish a cell phone curfew. All phones must be plugged into a central charging place by a specific time each night.
- Do not allow your teen to use media during meals or homework.
- Do not let your teen eat while watching TV or using the computer.
- Do not leave the TV on for background noise. Turn on the radio or have no background noise.
- Turn off all media 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
- Encourage your teen to see friends regularly and do activities together that do not involve screens.
- Have your teen decide which TV programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over. If they are on late at night, record them and watch them on the weekend.
- Suggest other activities, such as family board games, bike riding, or going for a walk.
- Keep a record of how much time is spent in front of a screen. Try to spend the same amount of time being active.
- Be a good role model as a parent by decreasing your own screen time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ longstanding recommendations on screen time are to ban televisions from teens’ bedrooms and limit entertainment screen time to no more than two hours daily. You must decide what feels best for your family, and it may work best if you talk to your teen about what they feel is appropriate and negotiate a compromise.