Young people who spend seven hours or more a day on screens are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety than those who use screens for an hour a day, finds a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports.
The data came from more than 40,000 kids ages two to 17 and was collected as part of the Census Bureau’s 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. While spending seven or more hours a day on screens was not typical among the younger kids in the study, roughly 20% of 14- to 17-year-olds spent this amount of time on screens each day. (This dovetails with a recent Pew Research Center report that found teens use the Internet “almost constantly.” They’re likely following their parents’ lead: some estimates show that U.S. adults now spend roughly 10 hours a day staring at TVs or digital devices.)
Along with the associations between screen time and diagnoses of depression and anxiety, the study found that young people who spent seven hours or more a day on screens (not including schoolwork) were more easily distracted, less emotionally stable and had more problems finishing tasks and making friends compared to those who spent just an hour a day on screens (not including schoolwork).
Many of these same negative trends also turned up to a lesser degree among young people who used screens for four hours a day. Also, adolescents seemed to have more problems than younger kids as a result of heavy screen use.
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