Everything in Moderation: Moderate Use of Screens Unassociated with Child Behavior Problems

Abstract

The impact of children’s use of “screen” media including television and computer games, continues to be debated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) until recently recommended a relatively restrictive screen time diet of 2 h or less for most youth. A representative correlational sample of youth were assessed for links between screen time and risky behavioral outcomes. Data collection occurred in 2013 conducted by the State of Florida. Use of screens that was moderately high, in excess of the AAP’s former recommendations, but not excessive (1 SD or higher than average), was not associated with delinquency, risky behaviors, sexual behaviors, substance abuse, reduced grades or mental health problems. Even excessive screen use (1 SD or higher) was only weakly associated with negative outcomes related to delinquency, grades and depression only, and at levels unlikely to be practically significant. Results conceptually replicate those of Przybylski (2014) with a US sample for depression and delinquency as outcomes. Moderate use of screens, though in excess of the AAP’s historical recommendations, are unassociated with problem outcomes. Excessive use of screens is only weakly associated with negative outcomes, and only those related to depression and delinquency as well as reduced grades, but not risky driving, substance use, risky sex or disordered eating. Although an “everything in moderation” message when discussing screen time with parents may be most productive, results do not support a strong focus on screen time as a preventative measure for youth problem behaviors.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Ferguson.

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The author has no conflicts of interest to declare and is solely responsible for the study design, analysis and decision to submit for publication. The author received no grants, honorarium or other funding to contribute to this report.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Ferguson, C.J. Everything in Moderation: Moderate Use of Screens Unassociated with Child Behavior Problems. Psychiatr Q 88, 797–805 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-016-9486-3

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Keywords

  • Video games
  • Television
  • Screen time
  • Adolescents
  • Risk behaviors