Study Finds No Link Between the Time Teens Spend on Tech Devices and Mental Health

Since the rise in popularity of cell phones, tablets, and other convenient modern technology, some people have speculated or outright assumed that technology harms a person’s mental health. For instance, some people have referred to users on Twitter constantly scrolling their feeds for updates on a distressing piece of news as doom scrolling.

Many people recommend that we as a society need to spend time away from social media. Especially if you have found yourself working from home because of the pandemic, you could benefit from a few ideas for working from home that may help with lessening your screen time. If you feel as if your mental health is not being well taken care of, you may refer to mental health websites such as MyTherapist and search for articles that could relate to your predicament.

teens and tech

Some people are seriously concerned with the time we all seem to be spending online, while others may laugh off the notion or admit to an “addiction” with more humor. Although the effects of social media on mental health are being studied in a lot of ongoing research, a new study from Oxford finds no link between the time trends spend on their devices and mental health.

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Overview

The Oxford study involved over 430,000 adolescents hailing from the United States and the United Kingdom using a questionnaire that dated back to 1991. All of the information from this study is self-reported, which raises the possibility of inaccurate data.

The content of the questionnaire compared television viewing, social media, and device use with feelings of depression and other behavioral problems.

Even the connections they did find, including a drop in association between technology and depression as well as an increase between technology use and behavioral problems, were slight.

A senior author of the study, Andy Przybylski, said that it is too early to make any resolute conclusions on the impact of technology on a person’s mental state of mind. Access to actual phone data, rather than self-reported, could improve the conclusions the study can draw.

Growing complexity of technology’s impact on mental healt

As Przybylski said, technology’s role in a person’s mental health is complicated. Simply put, Oxford researchers may need more information from tech companies before they can make any solid conclusions. It can be difficult to tell if addiction to devices plays a role in a person’s physical or mental health when the information is coming from the person being studied.

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Other studies are ongoing. For example, conclusions that question the notion of technology negatively affecting mental health could be set against separate conclusions regarding physical health, without considering that physical health can also impact mental health.

Although there could be a correlation between screen use and physical inactivity, the result of the screens having some effect on an individual’s mental health is not readily apparent. The World Health Organization reports that, currently, over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are not adequately physically active.

Other factors affecting mental health

It can be easy to blame technology for various societal problems, but the truth is likely that tons of small factors can influence mental health and they could be different for every person.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed existing flaws in mental health care as well as possibly contributing to new ones. Furthermore, the pandemic may have also pushed some people to use their screens more often as well. Researchers have a difficult road ahead in their attempts to prove or disprove the connections between technology and mental health, but this new study from Oxford does indicate that some of the negative assumptions may not be accurate.

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Looking ahead

While it seems that Oxford researchers have substantial evidence to prove that devices are not linked to mental health issues, more research needs to be done on the matter. Additionally, if you think that spending time on your device could be causing personal issues, use your best judgment when making an effort to improve your mental health.

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