Spending time on their phones or online doesn’t harm teens’ mental health, according to a new study that challenges a widely held belief.
“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,” said study co-author Candice Odgers. She’s a professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).
For the study, researchers surveyed more than 2,000 10- to 15-year-olds at public schools in North Carolina and tracked nearly 400 of them on their smartphones for two weeks.
The young people reported on any mental health symptoms three times a day, as well as their daily digital technology use.
Neither using more types of digital technology or spending more time using it was associated with worse mental health, the researchers found.
When links between digital technology use and mental health were found, they were minor and positive, according to the report.
For example, participants who sent more text messages reported feeling better than those who texted less often, the findings showed.
“Contrary to the common belief that smartphones and social media are damaging adolescents’ mental health, we don’t see much support for the idea that time spent on phones and online is associated with increased risk for mental health problems,” study co-author Michaeline Jensen said in a UCI news release. Jensen is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The report was published online recently in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on children and media.