According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, approximately 72% of US teens say they check their mobile phones for messages several times a day and as soon as they wake up in the morning. Learn about the effects of excessive screen time for teens and ways to limit their screen time in this post.
The Pew Research Center study has also found that 56% of teens associate the absence of their phones with anxiety, loneliness, or being upset, while the others say that they spend excessive time on their phones (1).
It is natural for teens to be obsessed with mobile phones and gadgets. However, extended screen time poses several physical and mental health risks. Let’s delve deeper into the topic.
What Is Screen Time?
Screen time denotes the sedentary activities done in front of or using a device with a screen, such as watching TV, working on the computer, playing video games, and using social media (2). With most teenagers being well-acquainted with technological devices, there has been a worrying rise in screen time in this age group across the world.
Teenagers spend much time on screened devices researching for their school projects, doing their homework, or pursuing their hobbies. While screened devices help teens in these activities, extended screen time is harmful for them.
What Is The Recommended Screen Time For Teens?
A maximum of two hours on screened devices, barring the time spent for homework or other educational activities, may be considered ideal for teens (3). More importantly, it should not interfere with their sleep, physical activity, and social life.
However, note that the recommended screen time for each teen can vary and should be tailor-made for each child (4). And a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be used to determine screen time for teenagers. Meanwhile, you can play an active role in deciding your teen’s screen time by making provisions for adequate sleep, homework, outdoor play, and hobbies.
Risks Of Excessive Screen Time
1. Bad posture
Many teens who spend a major chunk of their day on screened devices adopt unhealthy and improper postures. It is common to find teenagers working or playing on a screen device while sitting or lying on their bed. This can result in a hunched posture and neck and spine issues as they grow older.
2. Impaired sleep and insomnia
Sleep disorders are on the rise among teenagers, and a major trigger factor for these disorders is the excessive use of cellular phones (7). Blue light rays emitted by the screened devices interfere with melatonin production, the hormone responsible for inducing sleep. Moreover, teens addicted to the internet tend to stay awake for long hours just to watch their favorite series or chat with their friends.
4. Behavioral problems
Increased screen time results in poor sleep among teenagers. This can further translate to behavioral problems in children of this age group (9). In addition, by being on screens to the exclusion of other activities, teens do not practice the skills necessary to regulate behaviors in a natural environment.
5. Increased insecurity
When teenagers spend a lot of their time on social media, they constantly imbibe content of different types, both consciously and unconsciously. They may also tend to subconsciously compare themselves with others or what they have with those of others, particularly celebrities. This can give rise to insecurity and behavioral issues among teenagers.
6. Rising materialistic views
Due to social media influence and the various types of content available to them, some teenagers may believe ‘being wealthy’ and ‘having expensive things’ define them. This can lead to a stronger desire to acquire more products in their lives.
7. Increased loneliness
It may sound paradoxical, but teenagers today may be lonelier than generations before them despite being so connected using their mobile phones, tablets, and other screen devices. Since we are social creatures, persistent loneliness over long periods of time can be detrimental to mental health.
8. Unsafe and inappropriate content
Teenagers are still learning more about the world around them and trying to find their individuality. Younger teens have impressionable minds and might not be able to differentiate right from wrong, especially on the Internet. They may come across fake news or inappropriate content that can affect them negatively. They can also be lured into dangerous activities by the wrong people online.
9. Vision and brain health
Excessive screen time can affect a teen’s eyes and vision. The overuse of the muscles in and around the eye due to increased screen time can lead to eye fatigue, blurry vision, and dry eyes (10).
Effective Tips To Limit Your Teen’s Screen Time
Here are some handy tips that you can use to manage your teen’s screen time and keep it within safe limits (11).
1. Be a good role model
Children look up to their parents and learn from their actions and behavior. This holds true for teens too. So, if you expect your children to limit their screen time and get off their phones and tabs, you must be a good role model and control your screen time too.
2. Teach them to prioritize their tasks
Learning to prioritize tasks is a skill that all parents must teach their children in their growing-up years. To help your teen minimize their screen time, teach them to prioritize what is important and what needs to be done first. A good place to begin is teaching them how multitasking with a screen can be a distraction when studying or getting work done.
3. Encourage them to be more social
It is easy for teens who spend most of their day on screened devices to become less social, have fewer friends, or prefer to avoid people altogether. A good way to reduce their screen time is to encourage them to spend more time with friends or make new friends.
4. Encourage your child to take up a sport or hobby
Encourage your children to take up physical activities, participate in sports, or take up a hobby early on in their life. Participating in a sport or hobby can help your teen stay fit and reduce their screen time.
5. Have screen time rules
Every home should have reasonable screen time rules. This is an essential part of balanced parenting and helps you create a disciplined environment for your teen. It may be a good idea to discuss with your teen rather than dictate screen time rules. This makes it a family rule rather than a punishment.
6. Educate them about risks online
As parents of a teenager, you must begin to communicate more openly with them. Discuss the many Internet safety risks and teach them the safety tips. Observe and understand how they communicate with people using their mobile phones or laptop. This can give you an idea about their behavior online. Also, make your teens aware of the privacy settings that they can use to control what they share on the Internet and stay safe.
7. Motivate them to self-regulate their screen time
Teens love to be in control, and you can use this to your advantage and help regulate their screen time. Find some free tools and apps that your teen can use to assess and track the time they spend on screens and devices.
8. Teach them to be more critical about content they see online
Children often believe everything they see on the Internet. However, this can get them into trouble or make screen time dangerous for them. Thus, it is a good idea to educate your teen to use critical thinking about what they see online and not believe all they see or read.
9. Teach them to balance their screen time
It is totally understandable if your teen wants to catch up with friends on social media or follow some content of their interest online. And, it is unfair to ask them to stop using their devices completely. Thus, it is imperative you teach them to balance their screen time. This will prevent them from getting attached to their devices excessively.
10. Have electronics-free mealtimes
It is a great rule to have electronics- and screen-free meal times. This allows all the members of the family to communicate with each other, discuss how their day went, or just bond.
11. Schedule family activities without devices
Weekends are a time for relaxing, and everyone looks forward to letting loose. Spending time as a family, without screens, is a great bonding opportunity for each member. So, how about picking out activities or heading outdoors where everyone can enjoy, relax, and stay away from their screens for some time?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the pros and cons of limiting screen time for children?
The pros of limiting screen time for children include–finding more time for other activities, staying happier, understanding the benefits of other activities and enjoying them, having healthier eyes, and being more aware of their surroundings.
The cons of limiting screen time–they may feel left out from the peer group, have less connection with friends and family, and miss out on online learning opportunities.
2. How does screen time affect the teenage brain?
Research says that long hours of screen time may disturb teenagers’ sleep. Since good sleep is required for healthy brain development, excessive screen time can adversely affect their behavior, cognitive performance, and memory (12) (13).
3. What are the alternatives to screen time?
Some alternatives to screen time include playing outdoors, doing craft activities, helping with household chores, board games, reading and writing, exercising, and listening to podcasts (14).
The introduction of the internet and screened devices has exposed us to the world. But, it is essential to have a limited screen time for teens to have the time to go out and explore nature and interact with other people. Continuously sitting in front of the screen increases the risk of obesity and reduces muscle movements, causing growth and development complications. Therefore, encourage your child to read books, do creative activities, and talk to others instead of sitting in front of the screen for long.
- A screen time of more than two hours may cause insomnia, bad posture, and loneliness.
- Establish screen time rules in the house, and obey the rules too.
- Ask your child to be more social by encouraging them to participate in sports or taking up new hobbies.
- Have a strict no-screen policy at certain times of the day, for example, dinner time.
- How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions.
- Screen time and children.
- Screen Time for Kids: How much is too much?
- How to manage kids’ screen time during the pandemic?
- Three Risks of too much Screen Time for Teens
- Screen time side effects in kids and teens.
- Sue K. Adams, et al. (2013). Adolescent Sleep and Cellular Phone Use: Recent Trends and Implications for Research. DOI:
- Smartphone, tablet use linked with obesity in teens.
- Justin Parent, et al. (2017). Youth Screen Time and Behavioral Health Problems: The Role of Sleep Duration and Disturbances. DOI:
- Give your child’s eye a screen-time break: Here’s why.
- Balancing Screen Time.
- What Does Too Much Screen Time Do to Children’s Brains?
- Screen Time and the Brain.
- 12 Healthier Alternatives to Screen Time When Kids Are Stuck at Home With No School.