Digital Wellbeing Evidence

Study finds increased screen time for teens linked to reduced wellbeing

A new study to be published in the journal Emotion has found that US adolescents who spend more time on electronic communication and screens (e.g., social media, the Internet, texting, gaming) and less time on non-screen activities (e.g., in-person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, attending religious services) have lower psychological well-being.

The study, based on 1.1 million 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from the national Monitoring the Future study, also found a significant drop in teen wellbeing since 2012.  

For the study, wellbeing was measured in terms of self-esteem (Rosenberg scale), satisfaction with life in general (and in different areas of life in particular), and  subjective reports of overall happiness (Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days—would you say you’re very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days?). 

This finding notes a reversal in a longterm trend that had previously seen teen wellbeing rise over time. The researchers, led by psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge (author of iGen), suggest that the drop in wellbeing may be linked to the mass adoption of smartphones among teens that, among other things, may have reduced in-person social interaction and sleep quality (known drivers of wellbeing).  They show small but significant differences in levels of wellbeing and in-person social interaction for teens with high vs low screen time as supporting evidence.

Of course, correlation does not mean causation, but the study adds support to the idea that increased screen time may negatively impact wellbeing.

The full study “Decreases in Psychological Well-Being Among American Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Screen Time During the Rise of Smartphone Technology” can be downloaded here.

Reference:

Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Campbell, W. K. (forthcoming). Decreases in Psychological Well-Being Among American Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Screen Time During the Rise of Smartphone Technology. Emotion

Author

Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

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