Screen Time And Depression: How Much Is Linked To The Mental Health?

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In December 2018 Multilevel models, which included random intercepts at the school and individual level estimated between-person and within-person associations between screen time and depression. Significant between-person associations showed that for every increased hour spent using social media, adolescents showed a 0.64-unit increase in depressive symptoms (95% CI, 0.32–0.51) according to the research of Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence | Adolescent Medicine.

Which makes you wonder: How much is safe for my mental health?

It’s no secret that everyone is somewhere “addicted” to their screen time. Just look around any place restaurant, homes, clubs etc. and nowadays you’ll see families and friends interacting more with their phone screens than with each other.

The same situation holds true for almost anywhere you go: some people can’t even take their eyes off from their screens while driving or walking, which has resulted from consequences in several accidents and deaths.

How Much Is Too Much? Screen Time, And Your Mental Health.

You have seen most of the mental development started occurring in the first few years of life. Allowing children to use of screens excessively causes major problems in cognitive thoughts and social development.

The reason is, that the children learn by holding attention to their senses and screen time usually does not come up with that opportunity.

However, it is not just about children that are at threat because of immoderate screen time; teenagers are also being distressed. A recent study has linked depression in teenagers to excessive screen usage.

Does Too Much Screen Time effect To Your Brain?

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Early results from lots of Researches have suggested that screen time has an impact on children’s brains and their leanings.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study by the National Institutes of Health agrees. It has been following more than 11,000 kids, ages 9 and 10 years old, at 21 different areas throughout the United States. According to an article on Healthline, the initial results of the research show that:

· MRI scans found significant differences in the brains of some children who reported using smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day.

· Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

So the research put all of us in a question that adults and their mental health is safe from the adverse effects of using too much screen? Actually, the answer is No.

Today’s adults have been estimated to spend more than 10 hours a day in front of screens (Harvard T. H. Chan School Of Public Health). Because the activity is sedentary, this exposure has been linked, in part, to higher obesity rates (which can lead to diabetes) and sleep problems.

Additionally, when asked, 15 per cent of adults reported that they were more likely to lose focus at work due to checking their cell phone, which is double the number of teens who have trouble focusing in class for that same reason.

And, the Pew Research study indicates that more than half of teens (51 per cent) say their parents are “often or sometimes” distracted by their own phones while in conversation with their child, leading to feelings of unimportance in the child.

Does screen time linked to emotional health?

For everyone, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are often the result of too much screen time.

A 2018 population-based study by Twinge and Campbell showed that after an hour of screen time per day, “…increasing screen time was generally linked to progressively lower psychological well-being.” The researchers also included that, “High users of screens were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.”

But maybe screen time isn’t bad if kids and adults are texting or gaming together? After all, they are interacting with each other and developing social relationships, right?

Again, the answer is ‘no’. According to a Psychology Today article by Victoria L. Dunckley M.D., “…many parents mistakenly believe that interactive screen-time — Internet or social media use, texting, emailing, and gaming — isn’t harmful, especially compared to passive screen time like watching TV.

In fact, interactive screen time is more likely to cause sleep, mood, and cognitive issues, because it’s more likely to cause compulsive use.”

However, in the physical and psychological effects, and too much social media time can create and increase the problems with social skills and their application, as well as a decrease in self-esteem — in both children and adults.

More importantly, the kids can be bullied online while sitting right next to their parents, and they cannot get away from their screens.

How to Limit the Screen Time cycle?

After being acknowledged from all these causes and effects towards mental health, all of us wanted to break our screen time cycle.

So, For parents who are worrying about how to limit their child’s screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics set out updated media guidelines based on the latest research. They suggest:

For children under 18 months old, no screen time.

· For children 18 to 24 months old, parents should choose only high-quality media and watch it with their child.

· For children 2 to 5 years old, less than one hour per day of high-quality programming is recommended, with parents watching along.

· Don’t use screen time as a way to calm your child down or as a babysitter.

· No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.

· Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtime screen-free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.

For adults who are trying to supervise their own screen time.

· As with the suggestions for kids: Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtime screen-free.

· Use phone apps to remind you when it’s time to stop using the phone.

· Turn off the majority of your notifications.

· Delete your social media apps.

Strengths and Limitations:-

According to the recent study of Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence
screen time and depression provide important insights, that there are limitations.

The present study is the first to present a developmental analysis of variations in depression and various types of screen time. This study indicated adolescents’ social media and television use should be regulated to prevent the development of depression, anxiety and to reduce exacerbation of existing symptoms over time.


Time-varying associations between social media, and television, where development in depression was found, Even though technology can provide wonderful opportunities, it can also have negative effects on mental health and well-being. While you encourage your children or yourself to unplug, keep in mind that you can set a good example for them and for yourself and try to establish some important rules to overturn the situation so, do your best to create non-tech activities for the entire family and society.

MAHNOOR AHMET “writes articles on Humanity, Social and Health issues. Her educational background is Architecture and Writing.

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