Screen time could have a negative effect on adolescents, says new research

Church Point (NS), May 1, 2019Caroline Fitzpatrick, a professor of psychology in the Department of Social Sciences at Université Sainte-Anne and a researcher at the PERFORM Centre, has just published the results of a large Canadian study of 40,000 teenagers which examines the impact of screens on youth. Professor Fitzpatrick's research suggests that time spent with screens could have a negative effect on adolescent health. Robin Burkhalter, researcher at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo and Mark Asbridge, Professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University were also part of the research team.

The results of this study revealed that the increased use of screens by young people has negative effects on their health and productivity. Teens who spend several hours a day watching television, playing video games, or surfing the internet had lower levels of academic success, were less connected to their school environment, had low self-esteem, and where more likely to bully others. In addition, they were less physically active and had poorer eating habits.

"Overall, the time spent in front of screens can take time away from other activities that could be more beneficial and rewarding," explains Professor Fitzpatrick. In addition, the adverse effects are more pronounced among teens who have high levels of screen use (4 to 5 hours per day) compared to those who use them more moderately (2 hours or less per day). Therefore, a reduction in their use could translate into important benefits from a public health perspective.

"Media use habits can be compared to a healthy diet. It would be beneficial to raise awareness among young people as early as possible, so that they can make healthy decisions about screens themselves," she says. “Parents can support youth by modelling responsible media use habits”.

The following recommendations regarding the proper use of screens should be noted: 

Children under 2 years old

No screen time (source: Canadian Paediatric Society);

Children between the age of 2 and 5

Less than one hour per day (source: Canadian Paediatric Society);

Children between the age of 5 and 17

Less than 2 hours per day (source: Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology).

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