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Research by Oxford University academics has found little evidence of a relationship between screen time and wellbeing in adolescents. Based on data from more than 17,000 teenagers, the study casts doubt on the widely accepted notion that spending time online, gaming or watching TV, especially before bedtime, can damage young people’s mental health.

Line of teenagers leaning against a wall using their mobile phone devices © Shutterstock

“Implementing best practice statistical and methodological techniques we found little evidence for substantial negative associations between digital-screen engagement and adolescent wellbeing,” said Amy Orben, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and College Lecturer at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford.

“While psychological science can be a powerful tool for understanding the link between screen use and adolescent wellbeing, it still routinely fails to supply stakeholders and the public with high-quality, transparent and objective investigations into growing concerns about digital technologies. Analysing three different datasets, which include improved measurements of screen time, we found little clear-cut evidence that screen time decreases adolescent wellbeing, even if the use of digital technology occurs directly before bedtime,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the OII and co-author on the study.

The research found that adolescents’ total screen time per day had little impact on their mental health, both on weekends and weekdays. It also found that the use of digital screens two hours, one hour or 30 minutes before bedtime didn’t have clear associations with decreases in adolescent wellbeing, even though this is often taken as a fact by media reports and public debates.

Read more (University of Oxford website)

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