Don't blame technology for young people's mood problems

accreditation
Smartphones might not be as bad for teens as previously believed.
Smartphones might not be as bad for teens as previously believed.

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).

Minor and positive

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 nor 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.

No elevated risk

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.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
27% - 9950 votes
No
73% - 26273 votes
Vote