Screen Time & Anxiety in Teens: How it Really Impacts Your Teenager's Behavior

Screen Time & Anxiety in Teens: How it Really Impacts Your Teenager's Behavior

"...screen time is a probable cause of the ongoing surge in teen depression, anxiety, and suicide."

Did you know U.S. teens spend an average of 7 hours 22 minutes per day using screen media?1 And this number does not include time spent doing homework. 

Several studies show that excessive screen time is linked to anxiety, depression, learning issues, and other harms. And while it may be unrealistic to cut it out completely, it is important to find ways to set screen time limits and monitor what kind of media your teen consumes to support their mental health

Read on to find out just how toxic screen time is for teens, and what you can do at home to support your teen at home. 

Is Screen Time Toxic for Teens?

According to research from the University of California, Berkeley, screen time is a probable cause of the ongoing surge in teen depression, anxiety, and suicide.2 This surge began shortly after smartphones and tablets became widespread among teenagers, and continues to rise. But the research shows there does seem to be a “dosage effect.” When screen use is limited, it can actually be beneficial, especially for kids who have a hard time connecting with others face to face. But when used excessively, screens are toxic, especially when it comes to social media use.

Some studies suggest that teens are more likely to be depressed if they spend a lot of time on social media.3 Exposure to filtered images can negatively impact a teen’s self-esteem, making them feel inferior or ugly in comparison to what they see online. They are also more vulnerable to online harassment and cyberbullying.

Screen time can also be incredibly distracting, which can be especially harmful for those who already have attention issues. While it’s a stretch to say screen time causes ADHD, it can exacerbate symptoms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, teens who reported using digital media several times a day were more likely than their peers to show symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.4

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Relationship Between Screen Time & Anxiety 

In addition to depression and distractibility, there is also a link between screen time and anxiety in teens, with the risk being higher in girls. 

In one recent study, girls who reported more than 5 hours of screen time on weekdays or weekends had higher anxiety scores.5 And T.V. and video games were just as detrimental as social media use. Yet, young people who met screen time recommendations were around 2.6 times more likely to have good psychosocial health outcomes compared to those who did not, indicating the importance of setting screen time limits.

Screen time doesn’t just feed anxiety by making teens feel inferior to what they see online – it also messes with their sleep. This is even worse for those who look at screens before bed or in bed. Not only do screens emit blue light, which disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, but media use is far too stimulating. It is well known that poor sleep is a major contributor to anxiety, and anxiety worsens sleep, creating a vicious cycle for your teen. 

Mental Health Crisis in Adolescents 

Echoing earlier findings on how social media disproportionately affects teen girls, a recent survey by the CDC found that teen mental health is in crisis, especially for teen girls and LGBTQ+ teens.6  Around 1 in 3 U.S. teen girls reported seriously considering suicide, with 57 percent feeling “persistently sad or hopeless” (compared to 14 percent of high school boys who considered suicide). And close to 70 percent of LGBTQ+ teens said they experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year with almost 25 percent attempting suicide.

Along with excessive social media use and online bullying, researchers point to the residual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teens’ mental health. Even more, some experts say teens are also increasingly worried about issues like climate change and social upheaval. As psychology professors Meghan K. McCoy, Ed.D.and Dr. Elizabeth Englander wrote in The Conversation, “These aren’t just abstractions for many boys and girls: They are their future.”7

How to Reduce Screen Time & Improve Mental Health

So how can you help your teen reduce screen time and support their mental health? Try these tips:

    • Designate screen-free zones in the house, such as the dining room or bedroom. 
    • Power down screens at least one hour before bed.
    • Keep screens in a common area of the home to monitor what they do online (and how much time they spend on screens). 
    • Encourage screen-free activities and practice some of them together, such as an evening stroll after-dinner, a family game night, or a sport you both enjoy, etc.
    • Make screen time a privilege and have them earn time online by completing chores or acing a test.
    • Model positive screen use by limiting how much time you spend online.

Modern life includes screens, and when used correctly, screen time can be a powerful tool for learning and connecting with others. Just be sure your teen doesn’t miss out on all the other ways they can learn and connect with the real-life world around them.  

And if your teen needs more support for their anxiety, learn how Brillia’s holistic approach can help. Consisting of healthy lifestyle habits proven to reduce anxiety and attention issues, Brillia’s 5 Pillars offer a variety of methods to control screen time to support your teen’s mental health. Other recommendations include following a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, practicing mindfulness

If you need more support, try a non-prescription medication, such as Brillia. This can help your teen avoid harsh chemicals and harmful side effects associated with other medications for anxiety. Brillia is safe for children, teens and adults with a variety of diagnoses, or no official diagnoses at all, as long as they suffer from anxiety or hyperactivity, lack of concentration or mood dysregulation. There are also many who use Brillia to control symptoms of ADD, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, ODD, autism or just occasional anxiety, with great success. 

Brillia is not habit forming, nor does it cause drowsiness, lethargy, or mask your teen’s personality. It will not affect appetite or cause weight loss or weight gain. Many other drugs for anxiety also have withdrawal effects, but Brillia can be started or stopped at any time without any “coming off” effects. So should you decide to stop or take a break, there will be no issues, as Brillia does not alter blood chemistry. If your teen is already taking medication, Brillia can be safely added to their regimen without worry because there are no contraindications with any other supplements or medications. Reach out to our customer care team to help you through your Brillia journey to make sure you get the best results possible.

Find more resources on how to reduce screen time, manage anxiety, and support mental health at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

Brillia is always here to help you shine brigher.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
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