Mental health of teens: Moderate online time may be good, study says

Not too little, not too much, but accurate.

This average position is what researchers say offers teens the most optimal well-being when it comes to spending time online.

A recent study of thousands of Irish teenagers found that low and high engagement with digital media compared to their peers was associated with poorer mental health.

Instead, researchers suggest that moderate levels of use are “not essentially harmful,” a finding that supports what is known as the “Golden Hair” theory.

The study by the Department of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

“There is a simple story that more is worse. It is important to emphasize that online engagement is now a normal channel for social participation and that non-use has consequences, ”said Richard Leith, a sociology professor at Trinity College Dublin and others. -author of the article, said in a statement.

“Our findings also raise the possibility that moderate use is important in today’s digital world and that low levels of online engagement carry their own risks. Now the question to researchers is how much is too much and how little is too little?

The researchers used data from the government-funded study Growing Up in Ireland, which tracks two groups of thousands of children for years.

As part of a recent study, researchers measured the online engagement of more than 6,000 young people at 13 and again at 17 or 18.

After excluding the missing data, the total number of participants at the end was over 5,000.

Researchers asked participants to report how much time they spent online and what activities they participated in, such as online messaging, sharing videos and photos, working at school or college, watching movies and listening to music.

The study measured mental well-being based on psychiatric symptoms reported by parents when their child was 13 and 17 years old, using questions about emotional, behavioral and peer issues.

The researchers also corrected previous mental disorders and symptoms at the age of nine, as well as social and economic factors, using the mother’s level of education.

Members of the “low” group report that they spend between one and 30 minutes online per day, “moderate” groups spend between 61 and 90 minutes online, and the group with “high” engagement reports between 91 and 120 minutes online.

What the researchers found was that both high and low use of digital technology was associated with increased psychiatric symptoms compared to those who participated in moderate use.

Lead author Ross Branigan, a former postdoctoral fellow in Trinity’s Department of Sociology, said there are clear distinctions between groups that spend similar time online but differ in their online behavior.

He said this means that the quality and type of behavior must also be taken into account, such as whether it is passive or active, or if it is for social, educational or recreational purposes.

“The use of digital media and online is a contentious issue when it comes to their effect on mental health, without real consistency in the overall results,” Branigan said.

“Although these results are not causal or deterministic, our findings are an important first step toward discovering why these relationships exist. It will now be important to build on these findings and further explore why digital media engagement may be linked to mental health. “

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