Tech addiction in kids isn't as big a problem as previously thought, researchers say

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Study findings suggest that parents shouldn’t worry too much about long-term technology addiction

Many parents worry about the effect too much time in front of screens will have on their kids, but a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that those limitations may not amount to much when it comes to long-term tech habits.

According to their findings, parents don’t have much to worry about when it comes to kids and technology addiction. The study revealed that kids and teenagers who spend a lot of time in front of screens aren’t likely to keep up that pace into young adulthood. 

“Are lots of people getting addicted to tech as teenagers and staying addicted as young adults?” said researcher Stefanie Mollborn. “The answer from our research is ‘no.’ We found that there is only a weak relationship between early technology use and later technology use, and what we do as parents matters less than most of us believe it will.” 

The evolution of tech use

For the study, the researchers utilized two primary data sources: interviews of nearly 60 young adults and survey responses from over 1,200 participants that were followed from adolescence through young adulthood. In both cases, participants were asked about how their parents approached technology with them as kids and how their own habits with technology had formed as young adults.

Ultimately, the researchers learned that parents’ technology restrictions during adolescence had little effect on how the participants used technology as young adults. Instead, where the participants were in life played the biggest role in how they used technology as adults. 

Those who were in college at the time of the study reported the highest tech use levels, whereas those who were married spent less time with screens. Interestingly, those in college believed that once their schooling ended, their screen time would naturally decrease. 

“They feel like they are using tech a lot because they have to; they have it under control, and they see a future where they can use less of it,” Mollborn said.

Getting teens moving

While these findings give parents less reason to worry about long-term tech addiction, the study did find that physical activity suffered when teens spent more time in front of screens. However, this didn’t turn out to be a long-term issue. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that this work opens up a dialogue between parents and their kids about technology use.

“What these data suggest is that the majority of American teens are not becoming irrevocably addicted to technology,” said Mollborn. “It is a message of hope.” 

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