Teens 'not damaged by screen time', new Oxford study finds


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/05/teens-not-damaged-by-screen.html


I bet some social media startups are having uncomfortable talks with their VCs right about now.

If you aren’t inflicting psychological damage you are clearly leaving a lot of potential user engagement on the table; and any need, desire, or fear not preyed on is a conversion opportunity squandered.


It feels weird to even be talking about “screen time,” given all that it encompasses these days. For me, it includes reading websites, newspapers, novels, non-fiction books, communicating via chat and email, playing games, looking at pictures, watching movies, television and gratuitous cute animal videos… But watching tv isn’t the same as hanging out on 4chan; reading novels isn’t the same as being cyberbullied on social media, etc. - not all screen time is remotely equal in its impact on one’s mental health.


I agree… yet I wonder if the loss of face-to-face social interaction could in the long-run have some deleterious effect.


I think the main question is how much loss of social interaction is there, really? Before screens we ignored people using newspapers and books. And, if I remember correctly, a key component of these studies was that traditional screen time measuring metrics (mostly self report) aren’t accurate. And, of course, the old stereotype of the teenager is someone shut up in their room listening to [music the next generation up disapproves of here]. The fact that they’re texting while doing this now doesn’t decrease face-to-face interaction, but substitutes in a different interaction instead.


That’s most certainly a valid concern. But I’d say that the amount of time devoted to books/newspapers back in the day was quite significantly less than time spent on all that’s available per @Shuck’s post. In my high school days (no internet then) I rabidly devoured one to two sci-fi paperbacks a week, and still had time for outdoor activities with friends.

Please note that I consider myself a fairly decent example (admittedly a single data point one) of what it means to sit and work all day in front of a screen… then only to change the scene when visiting my folks, an army of cousins, and some old friends back east once or twice a year. Those visits dredge up old face-to-face skills and create experiences that remind me of the pleasure of having not just one person – in the flesh – loving you and enjoying your company… but many. It’s a “digital-to-analogue” conversion high that I always look forward to.

That all said… each to his or her own pleasures in life (as long as no one else gets hurt). :slight_smile:


I feel refreshed and happy after reading BB- twitter, not so much


A moral panic over something that turns out NOT to be an actual threat to society? When has that EVER happened before?


Sure. On the one hand, “screen time” includes solitary activity that previously was also solitary… “Screen time” replacing “paper time” if you will (and adding on to what used to be “screen time”). And yeah, on the other hand, there’s also “screen time” replacing “people time” and certain types of socializing, in being made virtual, that become quite toxic, as well. “Screen time” is an overly-broad term that includes disparate activities, some of which aren’t meaningfully changed by being on a (computer) screen, and others that maybe are made significantly harmful to mental well-being.
The problem being that just talking about “screen time” doesn’t distinguish the various activities, it just looks at a statistical aggregate of what the teen demographic (which is also going to be doing a lot of face-to-face socializing) are doing as a whole, and what impact their activities are having on them, on average. It certainly doesn’t actually apply on an individual level, with particular “screen time” uses. (Where being bullied on social media is equivalent to reading books.)

I can feel happy and refreshed reading Twitter - so long as I continue to not actually have an account, carefully curate what feeds I read, and never, ever read the replies.
I find my mental health can be impacted in quite varied ways even interacting with the same “platform.”


In related news: "Teens ‘damaging to old man’s lawn’, new NewsMax study finds.

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Sure, excessive screen time in my adolescence probably didn’t hurt me, but I also fail to see any benefit I gained. My kids have limited access to screens, but not because of some ephemeral fear of any damage it might do. It simply serves as a substitute for times we would otherwise be personally engaged with each other. Of course, this requires us to actively engage with them, which sometimes not everyone is up for, but I know we have a lot more opportunities to connect. Fear of negative consequences need not be the primary motivation to pritoritze other activities that will become habituated.


This is a really important point. For generations, screen time meant almost exclusively a passive reception of really, really trash media (looking at you, TV). Now with commercial free video on demand, amazing narrative-based and artistically driven video games, myriad global communications platforms and the greatest library and encyclopedia in all of humanity in our back pockets, the quality of screen time is orders of magnitude higher quality.


Based on what my teenaged kid tells me, the vast majority of adolescent, face-to-face interactions are toxic as hell to start with. According to her, taking them online doesn’t make them worse, but does make them harder to escape.


I feel like it’s too early to publicly recognize the negative effects all this redirection of attention to this vapid insular narrow worldview. Without proper direction, these kids won’t be using the Information Age for what it’s meant for, like reading BoingBoing. Instead I think the research shows we should let these kids plug themselves in to mine as much data from them as we can before we discover screen time’s ill effects.
As you were children, Like and Subscribe! Be Mindful while doing it.


People aren’t hitting teens with the screens as hard as when I was a kid.

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Counter points:

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I believe excessive use of 7 inch screens is damaging . physically , neurologically and socially. by locking our gaze and in fact our whole body in a fixed position for an extended amount time cant be good. heres a basic feldenkrais exercise. lay down on the floor with your neck slightly elevated and supported with something like a telephone book or stiff foam pad the thickness needed varies from person to person but the idea is to have the neck slightly straitened and lengthened and most importantly as relaxed as possible. now breathing and relaxing slowly look side to side and up down and take note of how the eye movement affects the engagement of the neck and spine and other parts of the body. I have found there there is an endless discovery applying eye movement to other activities and seeing what subtly changes. by locking eye movement we lock our bodies.


The authors themselves write: " most psychological results are based on single-country, exploratory studies that rely on inaccurate but popular self-report measures of digital-screen engagement."

Then, under the measures they reveal that the findings are based on answers to questionnaires and diary entrees. I used to report professionally on studies but quit in part due to how simultaneously misleading and authoritative the language in so many of them is – particularly any that are epidemiological or on human behavior.

This just isn’t a good study - most studies that aren’t done in a laboratory setting where every variable is controlled to a high degree are super inaccurate and speculative.


This a million times.

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The length of the interaction might be more of a concern than the type of interaction. Phone calls took more time than emails, and now texting takes even less time. The stereotype I hear the most is the teenager who keeps multitasking, so their interactions are disjointed and/or too brief to be effective.

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