Study: Kids’ increased screen time during pandemic leads to mental health decline

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Whether it’s streaming movies and TV shows, playing video games or browsing social media, studies show the more time kids spend in front of electronic devices is associated with mental health issues.

Those issues can include anxiety and depression among other conditions.

In a new study published the in the American Medical Association Pediatrics, scientists showed the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco assessed screen time in 5,412 adolescents ages 12 and 13. They compared screen use before the pandemic began to May 2020. The increased time with electronic devices came a slew of mental health problems. 

“More time on screens has mental health effects including more depression and anxiety,” said the lead study author, Dr. Jason Nagal. “As screen time increased, so did adolescents’ worry and stress while their coping abilities declined.”

Nagata also says while social media can foster social connections, study findings showed that most adolescent screen use during the pandemic did not serve a positive purpose.

The researchers plan to follow this cohort through 2026.