Being Glued to Screens Comes at the Expense of Happiness

A new study confirms that kids who spend more time engaged in physical and creative activities, such as learning music, in-person socialization, or playing sports tend to be happier and healthier than kids who spend more time staring at screens.

Screen time is “detrimental” for its isolating impact and sedentary nature, according to Rose Vigara, a research associate at the University of South Australia.

With her colleagues, Vigara looked at roughly 62,000 kids between the ages of four and nine and how they spent their time out of school. All the children were asked to complete surveys about their well-being, and almost all the children who played more video games, scrolled through social media and watched TV had lower levels of self-described well-being.

“Scientific evidence has found time and time again that children’s participation in sport is linked with improved social and psychological outcomes such as healthier self-image, reduced anxiety, and depressive symptoms, and higher levels of academic achievement,” Virgara said.

Not all children have the option to participate in after-school activities. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have less access to creative arts/music lessons and sports than those from higher-income families. Still, children who were able to participate in sports were 15% more optimistic, 14% happier, and 10% more likely to be in control of their emotions than those who did not engage in these activities.

Researchers acknowledge that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have many hurdles when it comes to participating in after-school activities and may have to resort to screen time. These hurdles include access to activities, monetary cost, and suitable transportation. Systemic barriers must be accounted for in our school systems, city parks, green spaces, and communities.

Researchers encourage youth, regardless of socioeconomic status, to limit their screen time as much as possible, spend time outdoors, engage in social activities, and participate in sports, hobbies, and other non-screen activities whenever possible.

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