With increased use of technology in many teenager's lives, some are spending a large proportion of their day looking at TV, computer, laptop, mobile phone and tablet screens. Heavy technology use is linked to fatigue, stress and depression in young adults (Thomée, Härenstam, & Hagberg, 2011). Furthermore, high levels of screen-time combined with physical inactivity are associated with a range of health issues for young people such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and poor mental health (Graham & Hipp 2014). Although teenage boys are typically more active than girls (Hallal, Andersen, Bull, Guthold, Haskell, & Ekelund, 2012), boys report significantly higher levels of screen-time, making them susceptible to unhealthy weight gain and poor social and emotional well-being.
Although parents report being worried about their teenagers screen-based activities, they acknowledge computers and the internet as valuable learning tools (Turow, 1999). Many education providers such as Christchurch Boys' High School are placing an increased emphasis on using technology for student learning.
Recommendations for the amount of discretionary screen time (not homework related screen time) for teenagers varies. Netsafe recommend "Good Old Fashioned parenting" when setting boundaries for technology use:
- Setting boundaries as soon as a child gets their first device means it becomes normal for internet time to be limited in your household and less difficult to enforce later on.
- Parents can also model good behaviour, perhaps agreeing to no devices at the dinner table or after a certain time at night so emails and texts don’t disrupt family time.
- Moderation is key – try to make sure your children have plenty of other activities to balance the time they spend online. As a parent or caregiver you may be faced with anger and tantrums over this
Dr Aric Sigman recently created a report for Family First New Zealand analysing screen time in New Zealand youth. Sigman describes discretionary screen time as an emerging factor in child and adolescent health. His report highlights the dangers of too much discretionary screen time as a health and development issue. "Parents should be encouraged to monitor and control the time their children spend on hand-held computer games / media / tablets / smartphones with justification that discretionary screen time is now officially a health and development issue not merely a lifestyle / cultural one" (Sigman, 2015). Sigman recommends youth employ self-awareness and self-discipline and that 12 - 15 year olds do not exceed 1.5 – 2 hour/day of discretionary screen time and people over 16 years of age do not exceed 2 hour/day of discretionary screen time.
CPS (2003) Canadian Paediatric Society, Position Statement (PP 2003-01), Psychosocial Paediatrics Committee. Impact of media use on children and youth: Recommendations. Paediatr Child Health Vol 8 No 5 May/June 2003.
Graham, D., & Hipp, J. (2014). Emerging Technologies to Promote and Evaluate Physical Activity: Cutting-Edge Research and Future Directions. Frontiers in Public Health Front. Public Health.
Hallal, P., Andersen, L., Bull, F., Guthold, R., Haskell, W., & Ekelund, U. (2012). Global physical activity levels: Surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. The Lancet, 247-257.
NZMOE 2014. Learning using digital technologies. Providing balance. November 14 2014. http://parents.education.govt.nz/secondary-school/ learning-at-school/learning-using-digital-technologies/
NZMOH 2012. Ministry of Health 2012. The Health of New Zealand Children 2011/12: Key findings of the New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Sigman, Aric. We Need To Talk. Auckland: Family First New Zealand, 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. Screentime In New Zealand.
Thomée, S., Härenstam, A., & Hagberg, M. (2011). Mobile phone use and stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among young adults-a prospective cohort study. BMC public health, 11(1), 66.