Most parents worry about their teen’s smartphone use and its effect on them. Many studies have linked social media and excessive screen time to increased depression and aggression. However, parents may be able to breathe a small sigh of relief. A new study shows there appears to be no correlation to teen smartphone use and their mental health.
Researchers at the University of California Irvine studied approximately 400 teens ages 10 to 15 years old. The study looked at both the long-term effects of phone usage, as well as day-to-day impact. They followed the children for approximately two years and monitored the adolescents’ daily smartphone use and mental health data over the course of 14 days. The children, who all attended public schools in North Carolina, represented socially and economically diverse areas.
The study found no correlation between increased smartphone usage and worsened mental health. In short, the extent of time kids used their phones didn’t appear to have any real effect on their mental health. The long-term research showed phone usage, social media access and use had no negative effect on adolescent’s mental health. In some instances, researchers noticed when adolescents were more engaged with their phones — for example sending more text messages — they showed improved mental health and less depression. Kids spending higher amounts of time on technology for school showed more problems with inattention and hyperactivity than kids using their phones for entertainment.
Researchers looked for troublesome symptoms like conduct problems, inattention/hyperactivity, depression symptoms and worry. They found no increase in these symptoms, even when phone use increased. They also found no increased effect on kids already predisposed to mental health issues.
“It may be time for adults to stop arguing over whether smartphones and social media are good or bad for teens mental health and start figuring out ways to best support them in both their offline and online lives,” Candice Odgers, professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine said in a statement.
This research reinforces that taking an interest in your child’s use of technology may be the most beneficial way to help them navigate the digital world. While it’s still important to engage with your child about the technologies and apps they’re using to determine what makes sense for them, simply eliminating it serves no real purpose.