If you’re parenting a teenager, you’d be well aware that screen time is a daily part of life, and getting them away from them isn’t as easy as we’d hope, but how much damage can too much screen time cause?
Somedays, as a parent of a 13-year-old, I can see the benefits of screen time, especially during COVID-19. My daughter can connect with her peers, and browse Pinterest for craft ideas to make at home, but I’m also concerned by what the downside of screen time is too.
A recent University of Queensland-led study has shown that teens need to switch up screen time for physical activity for the sake of their health and mental wellbeing. Associate Professor Asad Khan, UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences researcher, said the global study investigated data from more than 577,000 adolescents aged 13 to 15 years across 42 high-income countries.
IS SCREEN TIME WORSE FOR GIRLS OR BOYS?
Results from the study have shown that screen time can be worse for female teens, over their male peers. “We found there were some benefits during the first hour of daily screen use, but detrimental effects of recreational screen use on mental wellbeing kick in after 75 minutes in girls and 105 minutes in boys,” Dr Khan said.
Researchers have linked harmful effects on adolescents’ mental health to screen time exceeding two hours a day for girls and four hours a day for boys.
WHAT SHOULD PARENTS BE LOOKING OUT FOR?
While we’re aware that screen time should be monitored, what signs should we be looking out for? “Excess screen time effects can include depression, obesity, poor quality of life, unhealthy diet and decreased physical and cognitive abilities,” Professor Khan shared.
By making that switch from screen time to physical activity, can definitely make a difference, “Whereas regular physical activity can improve physical fitness, cardiometabolic health, bone health, academic performance, executive function, mental health and can reduce weight gain.”
HOW MUCH SCREEN TIME IS ENOUGH?
Is there a screen time sweet spot? Different families will have different rules for devices. One mum from our community shared, “I take my teen’s phone from him as soon as he gets off the bus, and return it to him when he heads back to school.”
The research team suggest that we decrease screen time and send the kids out to burn off some energy instead, “One hour of physical activity and no more than two hours of screen time a day provided optimal mental wellbeing.”
Do you have screen time limits for your kids?