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Teen screen time is actually not as harmful as some studies say, challenges a new study

Russian teenagers use their mobile phones while sitting on a bench in a park in central Moscow on April 24, 2018
Russian teenagers use their mobile phones while sitting on a bench in a park in central Moscow on April 24, 2018

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With kids glued to their screens and well-circulated research sounding the alarm bells of increased risks of depression, anxiety and suicide, parents have had plenty to worry about.

But a new Oxford study published in Nature Human Behavior (and believed to have applied more rigorous statistical techniques) says those scary studies are wildly exaggerated.

The Oxford study examined 350,000 teens and included data from a popular study by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, which said increased screen time, especially among teen girls, might have caused the 2010 to 2015 uptick in depression and suicidal thoughts. But Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein at the Oxford Internet Institute arrived at a much different conclusion: screentime is about as scary as potatoes, with even less of a negative impact on adolescent mental health than wearing glasses.

Why such drastically different conclusions, and how should parents respond to the conflicting arguments? We hear from both sides. Call us at 866-893-5722 with questions or comment below.


Andrew Przybylski, experimental psychologist and director of research at the the Oxford Internet Institute, a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford; he tweets @ShuhBillSkee

Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” (Simon and Schuster August 2017); she is also the lead author of the study “Screen time might boost depression, suicide behaviors in teens” and tweets @jean_twenge

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