So it seems just an hour a day staring at the screen of a smartphone or tablet can be enough to make children anxious or depressed!
Why? Well scientists say it makes them less curious, less able to finish tasks and less emotionally stable!
I guess this news has not reached our school and hundreds of others who are moving towards ‘no books…bring your own devices (BYOD)’ pathways!
Research suggests children as young as two are developing mental health problems although teenagers are most at risk from the damaging devices.
But research shows ‘zombie’ children spend nearly five hours every day gawping at electronic devices.
Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia say time spent on smartphones is a serious, but avoidable cause of mental health issues.
“Half of mental health problems develop by adolescence,” say professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell.
“There is a need to identify factors linked to mental health issues that are [able to be changed] in this population, as most are difficult or impossible to influence. How children and adolescents spend their leisure time is [easier] to change.”
Parents and teachers, they say, must cut the amount of time children spend online or watching television while they’re studying, socialising, eating or even playing sport.
The researchers analysed data provided by the parents of more than 40,000 US children aged two to 17 for a nationwide health survey in 2016. The questionnaire asked about the youngsters’ medical care, any emotional, developmental or behavioural issues and their daily screen time.
Adolescents spending more than seven hours a day on screens are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression as those who spent an hour.
Links between screen time and wellbeing are stronger among adolescents than young children, the study found.
Even moderate use of four hours is also associated with lower psychological well-being than one hour a day.
Pre-schoolers, or those under the age of five, who are high users are twice as likely to often lose their temper – and are 46 per cent more prone to not be able to calm down when excited.
Among 14 to 17-year-olds, more than four in 10 (42.2pc) of those in the study who spent more than seven hours a day on screens did not finish tasks.
About one in 11 (9pc) of 11 to 13-year-olds who spent an hour with screens daily were not curious or interested in learning new things.
The US National Institute of Health estimates children and adolescents commonly spend an average of five to seven hours on screens during leisure time. Evidence is growing of the adverse effects this has on health.
This year the World Health Organisation (WHO) decided to include gaming disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.
And in December 2017 a team of Oxford University researchers found UK ‘zombie’ children’s average daily screen time has leapt in a generation from just under three hours to four hours and 45 minutes.
Experts warn ‘addicted’ children risk sleeplessness, obesity and falling victim to cyber-bullying, while losing valuable social skills through a lack of face-to-face contact.
In this day and age when technology is fast moving, when new jobs are being created by youngsters who are into these technologies, it is difficult to say what causes what and how best to go about the issue!
Reem Antoon is a former GDN news editor. She can be reached on: email@example.com