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Teens who are addicted to their phones are less happy

A new study has revealed that too much screen time makes teenagers unhappy. The young adults who spent more time on activities such as playing games on a computer, using social media, and texting were found to be significantly less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities such as playing sports and engaging in face-to-face conversation.

Jean M. Twenge is a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the study’s lead author. She said that teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier.

The research team collected data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, which surveyed more than a million 8th, 10th, and 12th-graders in the United States. The students reported on how often they spent time on their phones, tablets, and computers, and answered questions about non-screen social interactions and their overall happiness.

Based on the results of the study, Twenge believes that screen time is driving unhappiness and not the other way around.

“Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said Twenge.

The study revealed that eliminating screen time altogether does not lead to happiness either. The happiest teens used digital media just under an hour each day.

“The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use,” Twenge said. “Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising–two activities reliably linked to greater happiness.”

After looking at trends in teenagers since the 1990s, the research team noted that the advancement of screen devices corresponded with a decline in the levels of happiness reported by teens. They found that young adults had noticeably lower life satisfaction after 2012, which is the same year that there was a significant jump in how many Americans owned smartphones.

“By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” said Twenge. “The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens’ psychological well-being.”

The study is published in the journal Emotion.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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