Spending hours in front of digital screen may be harmful for adolescents. However, moderate use may not harm but increase their well-being, researchers say.
“Digital screens are now an inextricable part of modern childhood. Our findings suggest that adolescents’ moderate screen use has no detectable link to well-being and levels of engagement above these points are modestly correlated with well-being,” said lead researcher Andrew Przybylski, psychological scientist at the University of Oxford.
The findings showed that as a result of a digital “sweet spot” between low and high technology use, moderate screen time can increase teenagers’ well-being. This sweet spot benefits teenagers’ well-being by providing opportunities to develop social connections and skills, the researchers said.
For the study, the researchers examined data measuring screen time and well-being collected from 120,115 teenagers, with an average of 15 year old. Nearly all of the participating adolescents reported spending time using at least one type of digital technology on a daily basis.
They also reported spending more time engaging in digital activities on weekend days than on weekdays and that they spent more time using smartphones in overall compared with watching TV.
Using statistical methods to determine the tipping point for each type of activity, the researchers found that on weekdays, teenagers’ well-being peaked at about 1 hour and 40 minutes of video-game play, about 1 hour 57 minutes of smartphone use, about 3 hours and 41 minutes of watching videos, and about 4 hours and 17 minutes of using computers.
However, above these tipping points, screen time turned potentially harmful and was associated with decreased well-being.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.