Study Finds No Link Between Time Teens’ Spend On Tech Devices And Mental Health Problems

Top line

According to a new Oxford University study released Tuesday that challenges the myriad policies and laws that are being challenged under the long-held assumption that technology is harmful, there is “little evidence” of a link between the use of technology for adolescents and mental health problems for children.

One study found little evidence between the time adolescents spend using tech and mental health … [+] Problems.

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Key factors

Over 430,000 teenagers from the UK and the US participated in the study, which used 1991 questionnaires.

The researchers, who compared indicators of mental health such as depression and emotional problems with television, social media use, and device use, found that the association between television and social media use and depression in those who completed the questionnaires lasted over the studied period of Decreased slightly over 30 years.

Over the same period, the association between emotional problems and social media use increased slightly, although the researchers found the change to be small in each case.

The researchers said the commonly used argument that social media platforms and devices are harmful to teens is not supported by the available data and research.

Professor Andy Przybylski, a senior author on the study, said it was too early to draw definitive conclusions about the relationship between teen tech use and mental health and “certainly far too early to put any guidelines or regulations in place “.

Przybylski called for more transparency in the technology area and asked them to activate their data for “neutral and independent investigations”.

Key background

Technology is often blamed for mental health problems in children and adolescents. The problem, along with improving online privacy and well-being, is finding strong consensus among lawmakers and regulators, who often point out the risk of addiction, depression and anxiety among users. While there are studies to suggest that social media and device use affects teenage mental health, it is controversial and the data for newer technologies is new and incomplete.

Against

The impact of technology on teenage and child mental health is a complex and evolving topic, and there are a number of reports that suggest a more damaging relationship. For younger children under the age of five, the World Health Organization recommended in 2019 not to spend more than an hour a day in front of a screen, for example to encourage physical activity. There are numerous reports among adolescents linking social media use to an increase in suicide and depression. In a number of studies, reports, and surveys, teenage girls appear to be particularly affected.

What we don’t know

This study only assessed the amount of time it took to use the technology and did not examine how it was used. The study relied heavily on self-reporting, which can be inaccurate.

further reading

There is no evidence that associations between adolescent digital technology engagement and mental health problems have increased (Clinical Psychological Science).

Teens, technology and mental health: Oxford study finds no link (BBC)

Panic Over Your Kids’ Phones? New research doesn’t say (NYT)

Children who are enthusiastic about technology become non-partisan (Axios)

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