A new study suggests that the time teens are spending on their phones and online is not that bad.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, tracked young adolescents on their smartphones to determine whether more time spent using digital technology was tied to greater mental health problems.
The researchers found little evidence of any association between digital technology use and adolescent mental health.
“It may be time for adults to stop arguing over whether smartphones and social media are good or bad for teens’ mental health and start figuring out ways to best support them in both their offline and online lives,” said Dr. Candice Odgers, professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine.
For the study, the multi-university research team surveyed more than 2,000 young people and then closely tracked a subsample of nearly 400 adolescents (10 to 15 years old) on their smartphones several times a day for two weeks.
Adolescents in the study represented the economically and racially diverse population of youth attending North Carolina public schools.
The young participants reported on their daily technology usage each night and gave reports of their mental health symptoms three times a day.
Specifically, the researchers investigated whether youth who engaged more with digital technologies were more likely to experience later mental health symptoms, and whether days that adolescents spent more time using digital technology for a wide range of purposes were also days when mental health problems were more common.
In both cases, increased digital technology use was not related to worse mental health.
When any associations were observed, they were small and in the opposite direction that would be expected given all of the recent concerns about digital technology damaging adolescents’ mental health. For example, adolescents who reported sending more text messages over the study period actually reported feeling better (less depressed) than teens who were less frequent texters.
“Contrary to the common belief that smartphones and social media are damaging adolescents’ mental health, we don’t see much support for the idea that time spent on phones and online is associated with increased risk for mental health problems,” said Dr. Michaeline Jensen, assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Source: University of California- Irvine