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American adolescents’ daily screen time doubled during pandemic

TUESDAY, 2 Nov. 2021 (HealthDay News) – As teens dramatically increase their screen time during COVID-19 restrictions, their well-being has taken a hit, a new study reveals.

Recreation screen time among American teens has doubled from before the pandemic up to almost eight hours a day during the pandemic, according to the report. And this estimate does not include time spent on screens for distance education or schoolwork, so the total was probably much higher, the researchers said.

“More screen time has been linked to poorer mental health and bigger tension among teens, “said lead researcher Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Although social media and video chat can be used to promote social connectivity, we found that teens who reported higher screen use experienced less social support during the pandemic,” Nagata added.

The findings stem from a survey of more than 5,000 U.S. adolescents, mostly 12- and 13-year-olds.

Nagata’s team looked at the time teens spent playing games, texting, using social media, video chatting, browsing the Internet, and watching or streaming movies, videos, or television programs.

While screen time increased for all respondents, black teens, Hispanic teens, and those from lower-income households spent more time on screens than others, the survey showed. Nagata said this could be due to factors such as a lack of money for other types of activities or a lack of access to safe, outdoor spaces.

Regardless of the reasons for the rise, parents should remain vigilant, Nagata said.

“While screen time can have important benefits for education during the pandemic, parents should try to mitigate adverse mental health risks from excessive screen time,” he said.

Nagata suggested that parents regularly talk to their teens about screen time and develop a family media plan. This may include setting limits, encouraging screen-free time, and avoiding screen time before bedtime.

“Parents should act as role models for their children with their own screen time practices,” Nagata said.

Yet he is not hopeful that screen time will decrease like the pandemic.

“As the pandemic subsides, teens will be able to switch some of their school and social activities from screens to personal,” Nagata said. “However, due to the greater availability of virtual or hybrid options, screen usage is likely to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

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