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Time Spent on Tech Devices Not Linked To Mental Health Issues in Adolescents, Claims Oxford Study

The message it gives is contrary to a WHO recommendation that says children under the age of five should not spend more than an hour a day in front of screens.

Time Spent on Tech Devices Not Linked To Mental Health Issues in Adolescents, Claims Oxford Study

A 2017 study warned about increasing depression among American children who spend time on social media

Highlights
  • The researchers involved more than 430,000 adolescents from the UK
  • Several other studies have raised this issue from time to time
  • Data outcome of their research does not support commonly-used argument

Many recent studies have claimed that technology can do more harm than good for children and the time they spend with gadgets is somehow linked to deteriorating mental health. But a new study says that there is little correlation between the use of technology and mental health problems in adolescents. It also throws into question a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation from 2019 that says children below the age of five must not spend more than an hour a day in front of screens.

The study conducted by Oxford University says they found “little evidence of increases in the associations between adolescents' technology engagement and mental health”. The researchers involved more than 430,000 adolescents from the UK and the US in the study and used a timeline dating back to 1991. Comparing mental health indicators like depression and emotional problems with watching television, social media use and device use, they, in fact, found small drops in association between TV and social media use and depression.

This contradicts a 2017 study that warned about increasing depression and suicidal tendencies among American children who spend more time on social media. Several other studies have raised this issue from time to time.

It also throws into question a WHO recommendation from 2019 that says children under the age of five must spend less time in front of screens (the less the better) and have more time for active play to grow up healthy.

The Oxford University researchers said that the data outcome of their research does not support the commonly-used argument that social media and devices are harmful to adolescents.

But despite the surprising claims of the study, Professor Andy Przybylski, one of its senior authors, told Forbes that it's too early to draw any definite conclusion on the effects tech use can have on mental health. Przybylski urged the tech sector to release their data for “neutral and independent investigation” for more transparency on the issue.

The scope of the study was limited to only evaluating the time spent using the technology and not how it was used. Its reliance on self-reporting could also make it vulnerable to reaching inaccurate conclusions.


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