Researchers at the University of Oxford have performed the most definitive study to date on the relationship between technology use and adolescent mental health. Examining data from over 300,000 teenagers and parents in the UK and USA, at most only 0.4% of adolescent wellbeing is related to screen use – which only slightly surpasses the negative effect of regularly eating potatoes. The findings were published in Nature Human Behaviour.
“Our findings demonstrate that screen use itself has at most a tiny association with youth mental health,” says lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.
“The 0.4% contribution of screen use on young people’s mental health needs to be put in context for parents and policymakers.
Within the same dataset, we were able to demonstrate that including potatoes in your diet showed a similar association with adolescent wellbeing. Wearing corrective lenses had an even worse association.”
In comparison, smoking marijuana and being bullied was found, on average, to have a 2.7 times and 4.3 times more negative association with adolescent mental health than screen use. Activities like getting enough sleep and eating breakfast, often overlooked in media coverage, had a much stronger association with wellbeing than technology use.