Teens and smartphones: after how long is their health at risk?


An adult spends an average of 3 to 4 hours a day in front of his mobile phone: a global habit that causes concern when it starts with the newest smartphone users, i.e. teenagers. When is the time spent on your phone too long? If you take it as a measure of mental health, then it is best not to exceed 4 hours.

A disturbing connection. Based on a study published in PLOS ONE, using a smartphone for more than 4 hours a day is associated with a higher incidence of mental health and substance use problems in teenagers. Researchers from Hanyang University in Seoul analyzed data on more than 50,000 Korean teenagers who participated in an online survey called Korean Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The archive included information such as the number of hours spent on a smartphone per day and other health indicators, which were “weighted” to estimate their impact on mental health and better understand what was associated with mobile phones themselves.

Growing usage. In 2020, the percentage of teenagers who used smartphones for more than 2 hours a day was 85.7%; an increase compared to 64.3% in 2017 (but that was the first year of the pandemic). Teens who used smartphones for more than 4 hours a day also had higher rates of stress, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse than their peers who used them for less than 4 hours. However, children who used mobile phones 1-2 hours a day had fewer complaints than those who did not use them at all.

It’s not the cause (but watch out). The authors point out that the study did not find a causal relationship between excessive cell phone use and mental health risks (it could be, for example, that adolescents more at risk for mood disorders and addiction are more likely to isolate themselves and spend time online). However, research could be used to develop guidelines for the use of technology for this part of the population at such a vulnerable age.


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