Screen Time and Teen Well-BeingPat Fontana
During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is spending more time online. Adults are using virtual meeting platforms for remote work and meetings. Kids are using online resources to attend school remotely. Beyond that, people who are staying home and maintaining safe social distances are spending more time socializing virtually than ever before. The connection between screen time and teen well-being is an important topic during these challenging times.
Increase in Screen Time
Teens who are attending school remotely are spending much more time in front of their screens, including for educational purposes. However, they are also interacting with their friends more online as they are not able to get out and socialize in person. Screen time, including the use of social media, has risen significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a link between balanced screen time and teen well-being, however, that carries even more impact now.
Forbes reports on recent findings from a survey in which 57% of surveyed Americans said their screen time has increased by one hour or more since going into isolation. The study also found that 30% of surveyed Americans said they spend most of their time streaming TV shows or movies while in isolation, while 70% of surveyed Americans say they have downloaded a new app to stay entertained while in quarantine, including games and entertainment.
One of the more significant connections between screen time and teen well-being is the reduced amount of physical activity that correlates with the increased use of digital media. Teens and adults alike are spending more time sitting on chairs or couches, or lying in their beds, while participating in remote classes and meetings. They are then continuing to be sedentary as they socialize online. Putting down the electronic devices and going outside to enjoy some fresh air and exercise is important for teens’ mental and physical health.
Researchers have found that social media appears to be more harmful to mental health than other types of screen time. These researchers suggest that teens who want to keep in touch with their friends should video chat using Facetime or Skype. These options are the closest they can get to in-person social interaction with friends during the pandemic, and they are vastly preferable to the curated, competitive, and anxiety-provoking world of social media. The researchers’ findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.
Interfering with Sleep
Sleep is essential for a teenager. Often, though, teenagers don’t get as much restful sleep as they need for staying healthy, mentally and physically. An increased amount of screen time has been linked to sleep issues, including insomnia, as well as symptoms of depression in teens. Screen time affecting teens’ ability to sleep well includes social messaging, web surfing, watching TV, and gaming, in addition to using the internet for schoolwork.
The science behind the link between screen time and teen well-being, in regard to sleep interference, relates to the artificial blue light emitted by electronic devices. This light can suppress the release of the body’s sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. In turn, this can interfere with the body’s natural internal clock that signals when it’s time to sleep and wake up.
The more time teens spend in front of an electronic device, especially in the evening, the greater the delay in the release of melatonin, making sleep a challenge. They may experience problems falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep. As a result, these teens sleep fewer overall hours and over time, that sleep deprivation can lead to symptoms of depression.
Guidelines for the amount of screen time that younger children should spend have been established by professional organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP has also developed the Family Media Use Plan for older kids, in which parents and children negotiate limits and boundaries around screen usage that take into account the education, entertainment, and health needs of the individual teen as well as the whole family.
We’re Here to Help During The Pandemic
At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we know that COVID-19 presents some challenging times for you and your teens. We all need to stay connected but, while it is safer to socialize virtually, there is also a significant link between screen time and teen well-being. We provide family counseling and parenting support, as well as psychotherapy and therapeutic consulting services, to support you and your mental health. We offer in-office and telehealth therapy options during COVID-19. We encourage you to contact the Miami therapeutic consultants Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno to learn more about the services R&A Therapeutic Partners offers. Call us at 786-452-7352 to schedule your appointment.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.