The distraction of spending time on smartphones or tablets and in front of the TV means there is less time for other important activities, such as interacting with the family, doing physical exercise, or spending face-to-face time with peers.
The relationship between depression and too much screen time is something researchers have been studying and although there seems to be a link, establishing a direct causal link is difficult because depression has many different causes.
What researchers have discovered
Recent research is finding that more hours of screen time are associated with lower wellbeing in kids between the ages of two and 17. Researchers have seen how, after spending only an hour of screen time a day, kids seem to show less curiosity and emotional stability.
Frequent television viewing and media use amongst teenagers is linked to depression, according to a study of adolescents by researchers at the University of Montreal. It is interesting that the study didn’t find increases in depressive symptoms with increased video gaming and computer use. This is possibly because of the interactive nature of these platforms and that they are less likely to make teenagers compare themselves with others.
What can you do as parents?
As parents, you can limit the time your kids spend online. You need to know about the apps and websites they are using and what information they’re accessing. For instance, you can install the free Spy Phone app on a kid’s phone to monitor their contacts, see who they’re conversing with and keep track of their activities.
Screen time shouldn’t be alone time
Choosing to watch TV rather than interacting with others can cause loneliness, which can eventually lead to depression. It is often much easier to passively watch a screen than to have to face the challenge of interacting with other people.
Without the necessary social interactions, kids can grow up not really knowing how to communicate well or relate to others. As a parent, you can engage with your kids while they’re using screens. You can even play video games with them. Making it more social gives you the opportunity to discuss content with them.
Listen to your kids and help them to develop discernment
TV can be unrealistic in its portrayal of life and comparing that to real-life can cause problems. Kids may develop problems with their appearance and be disappointed when real life doesn’t live up to what they see on TV.
Social media also offers plenty of images that portray the best sides of people’s lives. Kids may feel their lives suck in comparison to the extent that it can really affect their mental health.
On the other hand, the amount of content they’re exposed to on screens related to crime, death and violence may negatively skew their view of the world. If you show an interest in the digital content, they’re viewing and ask them how it makes them feel, you can help them to develop more discernment.
Find a balance
Games are very compelling for kids and they would often rather play games than do anything else. Anyone who can’t do without something is addicted to it and when you try to stop your kids from playing games or limit the time they play them, they are not likely to meekly submit.
Kids can often use playing games as a way to avoid dealing with the challenges of family relationships and other problems. Gaming disorder is now recognized by the World Health Organization. As a parent, you can set a good example for your kids and teach them about the importance of having a balance.