This is a question that has plagued parents for the past decade. Even as a psychologist, it has been hard to recommend a specific amount of screen-time as being the healthy amount because who really knows, right? There are so many factors involved. Is it for school or for social interaction? Is your teen an extrovert or an introvert? Does expressing their voice on social media help them feel more confident? Maybe it's doing more good than harm?
Well, now we actually know!!! The amount of screen-time that appears to cultivate happiness and emotional health in adolescents is ONE HOUR PER DAY.
Researchers Jean M. Twenge and Gabrielle Martin from San Diego State University and W. Keith Campbell from the University of Georgia, analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey that they analyzed asked teenagers the amount of time that they spent on their phones, tablets, and computers and compared that to their ratings on social interaction and overall happiness. Based on their findings that were published in the journal Emotion, they noted that teens who spent more time in front of their devices reported being less happy as compared to teens who spent more time reading, playing sports, and other face-to-fact interactions. Another interesting finding from this study was that spending less than 1 hour on their devices also caused a sense of unhappiness. In other words, teens need some time on their devices to socialize, observe, and interact, but more than 1 hour a day of this begins to have negative emotional effects.
Once again, the ultimate message that we need to keep in mind from this study is the idea that everything in moderation is usually the healthiest approach. Giving your teen free reign to do as they please is likely to have negative effects on their development as they often look to their parents to set healthy boundaries. The opposite is also true in that forbidding your teen to do a variety of things will also make it more enticing for them to break the rules and challenge your authority. The ideal relationship a parent should have with their teen is one that invites communication and trying to understand the world in which your teen exists (because it is quite different than the world you grew up in). Then, as a parent, it is up to you to set the limits and boundaries that are healthy for your teen and will help them thrive.
If your relationship with your teen in one in which there is a lack of healthy communication and you feel that you are drifting away from one another, making an appointment to speak with a psychologist about your concerns can be very helpful. With the help of the right therapist, you can learn to set healthy boundaries with your teen while also increasing the number of positive interactions that you have with one another. If you think therapy will help your relationship with your teenager, please feel free to call me for a phone consultation.