Does Screen Time Affect Mental Health?

Child Interacting With Tablet

Does Screen Time Affect Mental Health?

Technology practically allows us to do almost anything; with our smartphones, you can watch your favorite shows, order groceries to your doorstep, read a new book, and text message friends on a regular basis. Not only does technology provide us with content and entertainment, but it’s also one of our main sources of communication for chatting with family members, co-workers, and customers. We also have multiple devices such as tablets, laptops, and smart TV to keep ourselves occupied and entertained. But does having such wide access to digital screens affect our mental health? Some studies cite that screen time may affect mental health in both positive and negative ways.

How Does Screen Time Harm Your Mental Health?

Today, we’re surrounded by technology that impacts our lives every day. Because of how widespread it is across the world, some studies have reported some negative side effects of the long-term use of smartphones, tablets, and computers. Below, we’ll list out some of the reported negative effects of long screen time and see what research has to say about it:

  • Risk of Developmental Delay: In many cases, these devices are often advertised to children and teenagers. According to some recent studies, young children who spend more than two to three hours per day on screen may have an increased risk of delays in language acquisition and communication skills as they get older. In short, children who grow up with large amounts of screen time may have poor interpersonal skills as they get older.
  • Poor Sleep Quality: Many people also use their phones or tablets before they go to sleep, either browsing social media, reading a book, or watching their favorite show. Studies on this topic have shown that increased screen time right before sleep may decrease both sleep quality and sleep duration, especially for children and teenagers. Poor sleep has been connected with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and reducing screen time before bed may improve sleep quality overall.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Screen time brings many people to be more exposed to the effects of social media, and while social media can help us connect with our loved ones, it can also create mental harm by decreasing one’s self-esteem. Social media brings out more awareness of the existence and effects of people in the world, and constant comparisons made to those people can create negative effects such as negative self-talk and body issues.
  • Higher Obesity Rates: Overall, constant inactivity due to excessive screen time can lead to higher obesity rates, which in turn can cause negative effects on one’s mental health. Obesity has been linked to signs of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mood disorders, which in turn can create a cyclical effect on one’s physical health.

But Are There Any Positive Effects With Screen Time?

In some ways, yes. The increase in technology has led more people to expand outdoors using virtual technology, help connect with loved ones through virtual phone calls, and helps people feeling isolated and alone find communities that support their mental health and places of interest. For medical professionals, it also means providing more access to those in rural communities and decreasing the overall costs of healthcare, including mental healthcare, for everyone. 

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April is the founder of Prestige Mental Health and is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who is qualified to practice primary care and psychiatry. She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. April specializes in psychiatric illnesses including but not limited to depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD/trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia.