Teens’ screen time contributes to depression

July 19, 2019
Miranda Hester

Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

The focus on screen time has been on its impact on toddlers and young children, but a new study in JAMA Pediatrics indicates that teenagers can be impacted by long periods of screen time as well, with negative mental health consequences. 

The focus on screen time has been on its impact on toddlers and young children, but a new study in JAMA Pediatrics indicates that teenagers can be impacted by long periods of screen time as well, with negative mental health consequences.

The researchers used a sample of teenagers who were entering the seventh grade in 31 schools across the Greater Montreal, Canada, area and collected the data from September 2012 to September 2018. Each child was asked to fill out a questionnaire every year that asked questions about mental well-being and screen time, and they were followed for an average of 4 years. Screen time was divided into 4 categories: television, video games, computer use, and social media.

The sample included 3826 teenagers-1798 girls and 2028 boys. Over the course of the study, depression symptoms were found to increase each year. Every increased hour spent using social media created a 0.64-unit increase in depressive symptoms and an hour of computer use saw a 0.69-unit increase. A further hour of social media use saw an additional 0.41-unit increase in depressive symptoms within the same year. Television led to a 0.18-unit increase in depressive symptoms.

The researchers concluded that the more time teenagers spent with a screen, whether television or phone, the higher the risk of developing depressive symptoms.