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Parental Screen Use Can Harm Adolescents

Photo from Camilo Jimenez via Unsplash

Parental Screen Use Can Harm Adolescents

By Movieguide® Contributor

A new study has found that parental screen use impacts child screen time.

The study, conducted by Pediatric Research, examined the effects of screen time use of 10,048 adolescents over a three-year period. The results found that “Parent screen use, family mealtime screen use, and bedroom screen use were associated with greater adolescent screen time and problematic social media, video game, and mobile phone use. Parental use of screens to control behavior (e.g., as a reward or punishment) was associated with higher screen time and greater problematic video game use.”

A similar study reiterated “When a parent uses a digital device in the presence of a child, the nature and quality of the parent-child interaction are impacted. In fact, interactions are frequently interrupted when parents use screen technology.”

“One of the biggest predictors of adolescents’ screen use is their parents’ screen use,” Dr. Jason Nagata, a pediatrician at the University of California San Francisco, told the Washington Post. “It’s especially important that parents follow their own rules and practice what they preach, because even if they think their kids aren’t watching them, they really are.”

The negative effects of screen time, particularly on children, have been well documented. Movieguide® previously reported:

“The intersection of sleep, mental health, and screen time is a critical issue parents need to be aware of,” said Carol Ruddell with the DHHS Office of Substance Use and Mental Health in a news release.

“When kids aren’t getting the sleep their bodies and brains need, they are at a greater risk of not only mental health problems but academic struggles too. Increased screen time can lead to social isolation which can also make mental health problems worse,” she added.

Movieguide® also reported a “strong correlation between screen time and levels of depression and anxiety. The risk for depression and anxiety caused by high screen time was further enhanced based on levels of physical activity and age – younger children were more affected.”

Nagata explained that screen use at bedtime is the most harmful.

“Of the different parenting practices that we examined, the one that had the most significant effect was limiting bedtime screen use,” he said. “So if you only choose one rule to implement, that may be the most effective one for reducing total screen time.”

By simply implementing a few baseline rules around tech, parents can help both their children and themselves improve their relationship with screens.

“Parental limit setting of screens was associated with lower screen time and less problematic social media, video game, and mobile phone use,” the study explained.

“I know that this is really hard for everyone, and despite our best intentions, kids and adults may not be able to always follow these rules,” Nagata added. “So I also think it’s a good opportunity to have open conversations with your preteens when we sometimes fall short.”


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