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Teens Benefit With Less Screen Time, More Time With Sports and Art

Steven Reinberg
HealthDay News

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MONDAY, Nov. 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Walking away from TV, laptops and cellphones and spending more time in sports and other extracurricular activities boosts teens' mental health, Canadian researchers say.

Spending less than two hours a day browsing the internet, playing video games and using social media was linked to increased levels of life satisfaction and optimism and lower levels of anxiety and depression, especially among girls, the study found.

"Although we conducted this study before the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings are especially relevant now when teens may be spending more time in front of screens in their free time if access to extracurricular activities, like sports and arts programs, is restricted due to COVID-19," said lead author Eva Oberle, an assistant professor with the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

"Our findings highlight extracurricular activities as an asset for teens' mental well-being," she said in a university news release. "Finding safe ways for children and teens to continue to participate in these activities during current times may be a way to reduce screen time and promote mental health and well-being."

For the study, the researchers surveyed nearly 29,000 seventh-graders.

They found that:

  • Teens who took part in extracurricular activities were less likely to engage in screen-based activities for two or more hours after school.
  • More than two hours a day of screen time was linked with lower levels of life satisfaction and optimism, and higher levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Longer screen time negatively affected girls' mental health more than boys'.

"We do know that some forms of screen time can be beneficial, like maintaining connections with friends and family members online if we cannot see them in person, but there are other types of screen time that can be quite harmful," Oberle said. "There are many nuances that are not well-understood yet and that are important to explore."

The findings were recently published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

More information

For more on teens' mental health, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: University of British Columbia, news release, Nov. 4, 2020

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