DeLAND, Fla. — Could more screen time be more beneficial to youngsters than we previously thought? Children spending hours playing video games, watching television or using the computer may not have a higher risk of depression than their more active colleagues despite past beliefs, a new study finds.
In fact, they may be even benefiting from long hours of screen time as more industries become dependent on digital and technology experts.
Dr. Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University, led the study published in the Psychiatric Quarterly that backs this idea and provides an alternative outlook on the effects of technology usage in youths. In a time where policymakers and advocacy groups are trying to limit screen time, Ferguson argues their fight may be useless and geared toward the wrong problem.
“Although an ‘everything in moderation’ message when discussing screen time with parents may be most productive, our results do not support a strong focus on screen time as a preventative measure for youth problem behaviors,” Ferguson says in a release.
His study, which analyzed data of Florida teens from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, suggests that although six hours may seem like a lot of time, most youngsters are able to recover quickly from that amount of screen time. The only negative outcomes that were found were miniscule and typically affected boys more than girls.
The teens, who were 16 years old on average, were asked about wellness habits such as “sleeping patterns, physical activity, how often they had meals with their family, if they experienced symptoms of depression and how much screen time they spent watching television or playing video games.” They also disclosed grades in school, if they suffered any eating disorders, and if they partook in risky behavior.
The study finds that screen time “only accounted for between 0.49 percent of the variance in delinquency, 1.7 percent in depressive symptoms and 1.2 percent in average grade points.” It was also discovered that excessive screen time did not appear to have an influence on reckless driving, promiscuous sexual activity, substance abuse or restrictive eating.
With these findings Ferguson believes that policy makers are barking up the wrong tree while trying to be restrictive with screen time. Instead he conclude the focus should be on the content being broadcast, as it can promote positive activities or influence negative ones.
“Screens of various sorts are increasingly embedded into daily life, whether they involve education, work, socialization or personal organization,” Ferguson explains. He has found that is important for young people to get acclimated with the technology around them so that they can adapt to their ever changing, high-tech environment.