Teens could be more prone to anxiety if they spend too much time in front of screens

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Researchers say social media isn’t the only factor involved

Anxiety levels in young people have been a hot topic for researchers, as mental health diagnoses among the younger generation have been on the rise. Now, researchers have discovered another possible risk factor. 

According to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Montreal, teens who spend more time in front of screens -- whether it be TVs, smartphones, or laptops -- could be at a higher risk for anxiety symptoms. 

“These findings suggest that one way to help teens manage anxiety could be to help them limit the amount of time they spend in front of screens,” said researcher Dr. Patricia Conrod. 

Monitoring screen-time levels

To understand the association between anxiety and screen time, the researchers had the study participants report on their symptoms that could be related to anxiety, as well as how much time they spent in front of screens per day. 

The researchers narrowed down their study to four different types of online engagement to best understand what could contribute to the participants’ anxiety levels: TV, computer, video games, and social media. 

The study revealed that teens who spend more time in front of screens were more likely to also experience more anxiety-related symptoms, but only over the long-term. While daily differences in screen time didn’t amount to much change in anxiety symptoms, the study revealed that yearly fluctuations could impact anxiety levels, raising and lowering depending on how much time was spent in front of screens. 

Despite video games growing in popularity, time spent gaming was the one source of screen time that didn’t contribute to teens’ anxiety symptoms. 

With screen time guidelines under scrutiny from health experts, especially for young people, these findings are important because they could help parents be more mindful of how they set limits for screen time.

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