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How worried you really need to be about your screen time?

For years, we were told that our smartphones only spell our inevitable perdition . Spending too much time on the face with a screen allegedly increases your risk of depression, ruins your sleep and makes your anxiety worse – especially when you're young. However, new research indicates that the science behind these claims is much more complicated than most of us know. and maybe the claims themselves are greatly exaggerated.

Jean Twenge a psychologist at San Diego State University, tells the SELF that she began to get worried in 201

2 when psychologists were behind Future a decade-long study on behavior by Adolescents, reported a steep and inexplicable decline in happiness and a concomitant increase in depression. A subsequent report of the Pew Research Center found that in 2012, the proportion of Americans who own a smartphone reached 50 percent.

The potential linkup fueled their subsequent research, which culminated most recently in 2017. Publication of iGen in their book on the major and mostly negative effects that screens – primarily phones – have on teens.

But Amy Orben a doctor of The Philosopher University of Oxford examined the psychological impact of social media and told SELF she was skeptical. She was stunned by the handwring that poured through the scientific literature at screen time. She felt undamaged by the devices she had used in her teenage years. And she could not help noticing the population structure of many handbreakers. Most of these researchers were "over a certain age," she says.

Dive into the data on technology and well-being

Orben decided to do its own analysis of the data behind iGen . She did not see what Twenge saw.

In January, Orben published a newspaper claiming that screen time is not a stronger risk factor for a teenager's depression than eating potatoes or wearing glasses. For their study ] published in Nature Human Behavior Earlier this month, Orben and her co-author Andrew Przybylski analyzed the publicly available (and fairly large) datasets used by many other researchers Investigating Potential Effects of Technology Use

The researchers intervened in data from 355,358 people (mostly 12 to 18 years old) who were included in three large ongoing surveys ( Monitoring the Future the Survey on Risk and Behavior of Adolescents . and the UK Millennium Cohort Study ) using statistical tools to find real connections between two variables – in this case, well-being (including depression, suicidal thoughts and general mentality) health) and technology use (including time, the participants for soci Then they analyzed other studies in which mental health was correlated with activities and physical characteristics in the same way and with the internet as demographic ones. They found that the connection between technological use and diminished well-being was not only tiny, but also comparable to the relationship between factors that seem very unlikely to have such an effect (for example, when eating potatoes).

Overall, the results suggest that more and different research is needed before we can make clear conclusions about the risks of screen time.

So what should parents – and anyone else who is concerned about the negative effects of screen time – do? The contradictory research refuses to give concrete answers, and the data is harder to solve than a thousand earplugs.

The Many Limitations of Research

There is no shortage of research to investigate the relationships between technology application and well-being, but to conclude, conclude The results of these data are more complicated than you might think.

One problem, says Orben, is the size of the records, which sometimes include hundreds of thousands of teenagers. A large group has a large number of variables, such as the time parents spend with their child, whether both parents are busy or not, how happy the parents are, and whether the child has a long time or not Factors can independently affect mental health. Therefore, it is difficult to isolate the potential effects of the digital exposure time of .

In addition, the question of whether certain types of phone use are worse than others has been explored, says Twenge. So far, however, some of their data suggests that social interactions (eg, video chats and some games) may not pull us down as much as more passive activities, such as scrolling through social media.

The designs of the studies can also be problematic. For example, Orben refers to the work of Andrew Gelman, Ph.D., a Columbia University statistician who wrote in detail about what he calls the "garden of pathways" (from the title of a book by Jorge Luis Borges). With this approach, researchers decide how to analyze their data step by step, based on the results of the previous step.

Researchers who find no depression among all teenagers using digital technology could then restrict their investigation to use only for the smartphone. If these data are not meaningful, they may compare the mental health of girls using social media to boys doing the same. At every fork, the results of the previous decision show the way. The published study reports on this approach, Orben says, "as if this should be a path." This type of cherry picking undermines the validity of the final inference, says Orben, because in reality the study was essentially prepared to find something useful. Ultimately, the headlines we see reflect the ultimately interesting finding, not all the insignificant statements that are dismissed along the way.

The problem permeates psychological research, with many investigators being accused of "fishing" in which they cling On to a sensational discovery, Orben has managed to find over 600 million pathways identified in the British Millennium Cohort Study . a long-term study listing the behavior and evolution of 19,000 UK-born individuals in 2000 and 2001 – could have followed.

Massive data sets can make kinky connections look stronger than they really are, which could be the case on the screen. The question depends in part on how researchers analyze their results. They benefit from reporting an impressively small p value – a statistic that measures the likelihood that the same result will be achieved by chance. Studies with large numbers of participants can exaggerate minor differences, leading to a headline-generating inference based on errors rather than reality.

Orben's study is based on a tool called percent or proportional variance (PVE). While the p value measures the certainty that one variable influences another-for example, screens that make us sad-PVE indicates the magnitude of the effect. A small PVE suggests that although the screens make us sad, the effect is actually very small, says Michael Lavine, a US Army Research Office statistician, to SELF. Chris Ferguson, Ph.D., a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida, tells SELF that a small PVE might also reflect a mistake.

Orben and Przybylski found that screen time adversely affected the well-being of the adolescent, but the PVE was 0.24 percent. Tiny. They compared this figure with the PVE for other behaviors and found that the adverse effect of the sieves was only slightly greater than that of the consumption of potatoes (0.17 percent). Bullying was worse (4.5 percent).

On the other hand, Twenge rejects the use of the percentage deviation, which was described in 1979 by the well-known psychologist Robert Rosenthal as deceptive . "People who want to make these events appear small, report their percentage deviation," she says, "although it's pretty much useless."

PVE, Twenge says, looks at all possible causes of a result (teen depression, eg instance) that parents do not want to know. Sure, your genetics might play a role, but it can not be changed. Therefore, it is more useful to judge how happy teenagers are who spend more or less time on digital media, she says. The data in iGen offer this comparison, which is a "much better measure," she says.

But even that is open to debate among researchers, it seems: "[Rosenthal’s assertion] is dead." Ferguson says. "Percent Deviation Does Not Matter."

These disagreements may be an exciting feed for researchers, but what does that mean for the rest of us, who just wonder how worried we should be about screen time? Lavine offers a helpful middle ground: the percentage deviation is legitimate, he says, but a small number does not mean the risk is meaningless.

Even if a certain effect is small, "it could still be an interesting effect. "The key is whether a given variable – too much on-screen time, eating potatoes, being bullied – has a plausible explanation. Lavine says screen time and potatoes may have something to do with illness, but explanations for each link vary. And one seems more plausible than the other.

In that case, it's not hard to say why prolonged screen time can have a negative impact on your overall wellbeing, while eating potatoes is a bit more difficult. However, research does not tell us that the screen time causes far-reaching deleterious effects on the health of a whole population.

A record of One

Where is all this when they try to decide What is best for themselves or for their children?

In this case, the plausible explanation must be based on a sample size of 1: the person whose well-being is concerned. And that's really the only "record" that most of us have access to. Just because it's plausible that excessive screen time will reduce your emotional wellbeing does not mean that everyone will experience it to the same degree.

The frustrating answer is that we need more research to really understand what's happening here, if so. This is because studies showing a connection between digital technology and depression do not necessarily prove that the former caused the latter. The correlation could exist because users were already depressed and using social media for a pick-me-up. Or a third factor could be responsible for both, such as the fact that teenagers are all kinds of changes. It is also basically impossible to conduct a double-blind, placebo-controlled study for this association. So we only have correlation data, and that can only tell us so much. It can not tell us what impact screen time will have on a particular person or how different types of technology would affect that person.

Finally, Orben emphasizes that the point of her "science satire" was not to refute specific claims about the risks of screen time, but to highlight the problems with the quality of research in general. "If we ask the right research questions," she says, the risks of screen time will come to the fore.

But Twenge – and, to hold it, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – isn you do not have to wait, because the rising rates of depression and self-injury are real. "If there's a chance that the excessive time young people spend on phones has something to do with it," she says, "we should take this opportunity seriously."

The AAP proposes to set the limit on an hour screen per day for children between 2 and 5 years. For older children, the AAP suggests "consistent limits," but does not set the total hours. Twenge suggests two hours, but admits that the borders are still vague. "You could bring a case for three or four hours if you wanted," she says.

As complicated as the research may be, their general prescriptions are relatively simple and much of what we already know. Sleep Hygiene : "No telephones in the bedroom, no hours before going to bed and no excessive use during the day."

Whether or not these rules are sufficient for each individual to prove.


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