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The Effect of Screen Time on Teens

By Abby Bordeau ('22)

Photo courtesy of Wix

In today’s world, electronic devices are everywhere, and it’s no controversy that humans in present time like to use them. 95% of Americans own cell phones. This includes cell phone ownership of not only adults, but children too. It is normal to see children and teenagers on phones, laptops, and tablets at home, school, and in public.

Likewise, there are a range of harmful effects that can damage teens physically and mentally because of too much screen time.

Psychology teacher Mrs. Beth McGinley said, “I’ve noticed little kids [who] were allowed to go on YouTube and watch totally inappropriate videos and tweens that were talking to people in other countries and sending [inappropriate photos] to them.”

Furthermore, researchers from the San Diego and Florida State universities found that around 50% of teenagers who looked at screens for at least five hours every day had a higher chance of having suicidal thoughts. The teens in this experiment also experienced prolonged periods of sadness and hopelessness compared to teenagers who didn’t spend that same amount of time online.

Mrs. McGinley said, “Too much social media time for tweens, and especially teens, decreases happiness.”

Another study found that teenagers who spent over two hours a day on electronic devices were much more probable to be enduring mental health issues than teenagers who spent more of their time socializing, playing sports, and doing homework.

Half of parents surveyed in 2018 reported that they were worried their teenager’s mobile device was worsening their mental health, and they agreed that their child was addicted to their cell phone.

Screens can also promote negative stereotypes. Research has proven that constant exposure to negative stories on the news may result in depressive symptoms in people. Additionally, virtual advertisements and the people on television deliver non-sensible messages about what a person should look like or what someone needs.

Mrs. McGinley explained, “On screens, everyone’s perfect, white-washed, and everyone’s just doing amazing things.”

In reality, nobody is perfect and everyone has their own look. However, screens may impact a person’s weight negatively.

It was proven in a study that teens who spent greater amounts of time in front of a screen had a large increase in body fat over an extended period of time. When one is staring at a television, they’re “using up the time that [they] could spend on something active.” When teens don’t move for a long time it results in them not getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise.

Furthermore, The National Sleep Foundation suggests teenagers get eight to ten hours of sleep every night. However, most teens may average six to seven hours of sleep per night during a school week in part due to cell phone usage before sleeping.

So, should screen usage be regulated if they have all of these negative effects on people?

Mrs. McGinley said, “We’re always making new technology. [Someone] thinks about what technology was a hundred years ago versus what it is today,” and it’s significant to know that evolution moves forward, not backward. In this regard, technology shouldn’t be removed from people’s lives.

However, there are some ways for teens to spend less time on electronic devices.

When kids are really little, Mrs. McGinley said, “It’s important to teach them good use [of screens]. Parents need to monitor it, not because they don’t want their kids to use [screens], but [kids] need to know what’s safe and healthy.”

It would greatly benefit teens if they had “periods of time where [they] would be in the moment with the people around [them], and turn off their phones.”

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