Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., from San Diego State University, and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., from the University of Georgia in Athens, analyzed data from a large national random sample of U.S. children and adolescents (40,337 participants; aged 2 to 17 years old in 2016). Data included comprehensive measures of screen time (including cell phones, computers, electronic devices, electronic games, and TV) as well as an array of psychological well-being measures.
The researchers found that after one hour/day of use, more hours of daily screen time were associated with lower psychological well-being, including less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, less emotional stability, being more difficult to care for, and inability to finish tasks. Those aged 14 to 17 who were high users of screens (at least seven hours/day) were more than twice as likely to have been ever diagnosed with depression (relative risk [RR], 2.39), ever diagnosed with anxiety (RR, 2.26), or treated by a mental health professional (RR, 2.22) or to have taken medication for a psychological or behavioral issue (RR, 2.99) in the previous 12 months compared with low users of screens (one hour/day). Lower psychological well-being was also associated with moderate use of screens (four hours/day).