Too much screen time harming your teen’s mental health? New study casts doubt

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(Gray News) - Parents may not need to worry so much about the amount of time their teen spends on the phone.

"There is little clear-cut evidence that screen time decreases adolescent well-being," researchers wrote in a new study published in Psychological Science.

It’s been thought that social media use specifically can promote a teen’s sense of “fear of missing out” and make them seem more available. Researchers say this common thinking is misinformed.

The authors of the new study say past researchers relied on inaccurate data collection to reach their conclusions. They said even then, those results are mixed and inconclusive and that associations, when found, are often small.

Data collection is potentially inaccurate for a myriad of reasons, but most importantly, people can be unaware of exactly how much time they spend on a mobile device and make unintentional false reports. Researchers cited another study that shows only about a third of people are accurate when they judge how much time they spend online.

The researchers in the new study said they used more accurate forms of data collection. Instead of recalling how much time they spent on screens, participants kept "time-use diaries." These diaries recorded what they did during specific days or parts of the day.

Once they analyzed the data, researchers determined that the association between significant negative impact on a teen’s mental health and the amount of screen time is small. That’s especially true when compared to the other activities in a modern kid’s life.

It’s still up for debate whether or not this association, even when small, is important.

As for the idea that too much screen time before bed causes mental harm, that’s more uncertain, according to this study.

Results were very mixed, and researchers concluded that screen time before bed may not be inherently harmful, as public opinion has long held to be true.

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