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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Preteens and the Perils of Excess Screen Time

    From an early age, children today are exposed to various forms of screen media. Unstructured screen time is thought to have particular benefits for youth, including problem solving skills and social interactions that would otherwise be physically expensive. But with 24/7 access to the likes of smartphones and the internet, comes the ever-present risk of overindulgence, particularly in seniors. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that excessive screen time in preteens is linked to suicidal behavior.

    Preteens who spend too much time glued to their screens are more likely to be depressed, have poor school performance, sleep problems like insomnia and poorer physical health. The CDC research set out to assess whether the amount of time preteens spend on screens could increase the risk of suicidal behavior.

    The results showed that preteens who reported spending more than 4 hours on screens per day were more likely to have suicidal ideation. They had almost a threefold risk of attempting suicide, compared to preteens who reported spending less than two hours on screens a day. This suggests that too much screen time can lead to potentially harmful behaviors over time.

    So why is this phenomenon happening? Researchers suggest that too much screen time may be associated with feelings of isolation and loneliness, which in turn can lead to depression. Other issues may come into play, such as increased access to digital content promoting violence or self-harm, and social media sites that can be places of cyberbullying and trolling. All of these could be contributing to an increase in suicidal behavior.

    It’s not all doom and gloom though. Along with appropriate limits, parents can also present positive activities for their preteens to engage in. With the risk of social unease so prevalent in the current climate, encouraging children to find solace in healthy outlets is key.

    Encouraging physical activity can be hugely beneficial, and there are plenty of activities available to suit all interests - like art classes, sports teams, theater and music. During the pandemic, parents have been getting inventive in this arena, setting up virtual art classes and zoom game nights, so that kids can still interact and stay engaged.

    Another great way to foster connection is conversation. Talking to preteens (not at them) and really being present in conversations helps them to understand and process their emotions, build confidence and make meaningful connections with adults and peers alike. Such conversations take practice and should be encouraged.

    In addition, adults should be aware of the online spaces their preteens inhabit and know how to appropriately intervene should they become concerned. Remaining in close communication with parents, teachers and peers could alert an adult to any sign of mental distress.

    It’s important to remember that preteens are still learning and developing. It's natural that they will explore the world around them, both offline and online. But understanding that having unlimited access to screens and the potential dangers that holds can help adults create safe and healthy boundaries for today’s preteens.

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  • Notice: Some articles on enotalone.com are a collaboration between our human editors and generative AI. We prioritize accuracy and authenticity in our content.
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