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Screen Time Linked To Increase Of Anxiety And Depression In Children

child on tablet

Screen time. How many times a day do you hear these two words? Whether it's comparing household screen time rules with your mom tribe at the part or bartering with your children for more or less of it, it's a word that has become a huge part of our everyday lives. Well, these two words have just gotten a little bit scarier because a new study has opened the door to our worst nightmare coming true: that it's found to be linked with increased anxiety and depression in children. Gulp.

We're all guilty of it unless you have extreme willpower.  Screen time becomes a reward, a distraction, a means for mom and dad to get a few things done around the house uninterrupted. It's part of our modern day lives and not going anywhere. The new study, led by San Diego State University indicates that more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in kids ages 2 to 17, though the association is larger for adolescents than for younger children.

Too much screen time, even just one hour a day, is linked to heightened levels and diagnoses of anxiety or depression in children as young as age 2. Furthermore, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks.

The data for this study was pulled from a National Survey of Children's Health data from 2016, where study authors San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell, analyzed a random sample of more than 40,300 surveys from the caregivers of children aged 2 to 17. They found that adolescents who spend more than seven hours a day having screen time were twice as likely as those spending one hour to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.

"At first, I was surprised that the associations were larger for adolescents," Twenge said. "However, teens spend more time on their phones and on social media, and we know from other research that these activities are more strongly linked to low well-being than watching television and videos, which is most of younger children's screen time."

Reinforcing the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of parents having established screen time limits (one hour per day for those aged 2 to 5 and two hours a day for school-aged children and adolescents), this study further shows just how important those limits actually are.

With "half of mental health problems develop by adolescence," Twenge and Campbell wrote in their paper, it's crucial to identify factors that play a role in the mental health of our growing children.

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