Media use and depression: exposure, household rules, and symptoms among young adolescents in the USA

Abstract

Objectives

To determine the longitudinal and cross-sectional associations between different types of electronic media use (mobile phones, TV, computers, video games, and music) and young adolescents’ depressive symptoms, and to explore the potential for household media rules to reduce young people’s depression.

Methods

126 young adolescents were recruited from the Northeastern USA. Each type of media use was assessed using survey questions, time use diaries, and ecological momentary assessment. The Beck Depression Index for Primary Care was administered at baseline and 1 year later as part of a questionnaire that also included items assessing the presence of household rules about TV and video games.

Results

Baseline use of mobile phones and TV viewing were associated with higher levels of depression 1 year later controlling for demographic information and baseline depression score. Having household rules about TV at baseline predicted lower levels of depression at follow-up.

Conclusions

Both TV viewing and mobile phone use may contribute to the development of depressive symptoms. Implementing household rules about the duration and content of TV could help reduce depression in young adolescents.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R21HD054734) and by the Norlien Foundation. The authors would like to thank Jill Kavanaugh, MLIS, and Lauren Rubenzahl, EdM, for their assistance with this article, Kelsey Sobel for her work as Research Coordinator, the teachers and staff at the participating schools, the members of our community advisory board, and the participants themselves.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

This research complies with the laws of the USA. All procedures were approved by the Committee on Clinical Investigation at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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Correspondence to David S. Bickham.

Additional information

This article is part of the special issue “Communication Technology, Media Use and the Health of Our Kids”.

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Bickham, D.S., Hswen, Y. & Rich, M. Media use and depression: exposure, household rules, and symptoms among young adolescents in the USA. Int J Public Health 60, 147–155 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-014-0647-6

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Keywords

  • Media
  • Depression
  • Television
  • Mobile phones
  • Video games
  • Adolescents