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  1. #1
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    Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    Link Between Teens' Time On Digital Devices And Lower Wellbeing Is "Too Small To Merit Substantial Scientific Discussion"
    By Christian Jarrett, BPS Research Digest
    May 31, 2019

    My friends and I would often be so hooked on the latest Sega Mega Drive video game that we'd play all day long, breaking only for munchies or when nature called. Our parents would urge (plead with) us to get outside, especially when it was sunny. "The fresh air and exercise will do you good", they would say, or similar. Fast forward to now, and the anxiety over all the time that children and young people spend in front of screens, be it playing video games, watching TV or using social media, has of course only intensified. Surely it can't be mentally or physically healthy, can it?

    As we look to psychologists to provide an answer, we find a field divided. At one extreme, some experts point to survey data throwing up apparently worrying correlations between increased screen time and increased mental health problems. Yet other experts are skeptical, in part because of what they see as the poor quality of much of the correlational evidence for harm.

    In this latter camp are Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski at the University of Oxford, the authors of a recent paper in Psychological Science, which aims to set new standards for research in this area – including by using time-use diary-based reports of screen time (rather than relying on notoriously unreliable retrospective reports), and by pre-registering their methods and hypotheses, thus guarding against the kind of post-hoc data-mining that they say has plagued the field.

    The pair began with an exploratory analysis of two large surveys of thousands of teenagers, one based in Ireland, the other in the USA. These included data on teens' mental health and wellbeing (including mood, depression and self-esteem) and their screen time (including time on TV, computer, and video-games and smartphones). The screen time measures included commonly used retrospective reports, such as "how much time do you typically spend during a weekday watching TV, playing video games etc?", but crucially also detailed diary-based measures, in which each participant broke down their precise activities during every 15-minute period of a given day (either completed through that day, in the evening or the next day).

    Orben and Przybylski found a handful of statistically significant correlations between screen time and wellbeing, and then they used these to make some specific evidence-based, pre-registered (written down publicly in advance) predictions about the kind of screen time–wellbeing associations they were looking for in a second, "confirmatory study". This is a robust methodological approach that avoids the pitfalls of scouring a large data set hunting for all and any significant correlations (such post-hoc result hunting carries the risk that any associations that do turn up are flukes rather than meaningful).

    The survey data Orben and Przybylski used in their confirmatory study involved over 10,000 British teenagers (aged 14 to 15) and their caregivers, who once again provided retrospective and diary-based information on their screen time and completed wellbeing measures.

    The researchers found a few statistically significant correlations, including: between greater self-reported screen time and lower wellbeing; and greater diary-recorded screen time and lower wellbeing. Based on some mixed results from the exploratory work, the pair also looked specifically at screen time prior to bed, but this was not found to be associated with wellbeing. Critically, the significant associations that Orben and Przybylski did find were very weak – in fact, of a magnitude "too small to merit substantial scientific discussion".

    The pair provide a graphic illustration of the average size of the associations between screen time and wellbeing that they found. Assuming that causality flows in the direction of greater screen time to poorer wellbeing (the research is cross-sectional so we don't know if this is the case), then given the size of the association, teenagers would have to increase their screen time use by over 63 hours per day for it to have an effect on their wellbeing that they would actually notice (this is based on what is known from past research about the kind of wellbeing changes that are subjectively noticeable). Of course such an increase is a practical impossibility, thus showing the practical insignificance of the documented correlations.

    While aiming to set new standards for research in this area, the researchers admit their study has its own limitations – among them that the data on screen time and wellbeing were not collected at the same time, potentially reducing the chance to identify meaningful relations between the two. Also, some may wonder whether total screen time (however carefully it is measured) is the right metric – perhaps it is too crude and it is the nature of one's relationship with digital devices that is more relevant to wellbeing, such as why they are used, whether the screen time displaces other meaningful activities, and if there is a compulsive quality to the usage or not.

    Reference
    Screens, Teens, and Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From Three Time-Use-Diary Studies

    Further reading
    'There are wolves in the forest…' Professor Andrew Przybylski picks three myths around screen time.

  2. #2
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    The Dangers of Distracted Parenting

    When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about kids’ screen time—and more about their own...

    Occasional parental inattention is not catastrophic (and may even build resilience), but chronic distraction is another story. Smartphone use has been associated with a familiar sign of addiction: Distracted adults grow irritable when their phone use is interrupted; they not only miss emotional cues but actually misread them...

    It’s easier to focus our anxieties on our children’s screen time than to pack up our own devices. I understand this tendency all too well. In addition to my roles as a mother and a foster parent, I am the maternal guardian of a middle-aged, overweight dachshund. Being middle-aged and overweight myself, I’d much rather obsess over my dog’s caloric intake, restricting him to a grim diet of fibrous kibble, than address my own food regimen and relinquish (heaven forbid) my morning cinnamon bun. Psychologically speaking, this is a classic case of projection—the defensive displacement of one’s failings onto relatively blameless others. Where screen time is concerned, most of us need to do a lot less projecting...

  3. #3
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    I like Daniel’s post...

    as for the original research. My question is how does crap like this get funded? Do you need to be a genius like Freud to understand basic human nature? Show me a child or even an adult for that matter that isn’t happy doing what they want to do.

    And please don’t tell me I’m cynical. The conclusions and process used seem like a long Trump tweet. Of course they’re happy! You need to study a thousand kids and parents to figure that out? How about researching the long term effects of this screen time exposure. Replace it all with the fad of giving kids whatever junk they want? Sure they’re all happy. Ok so a little diabetes clogged arteries and obese child is alright as long as it doesn’t affect his mood.
    ​"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." ~ Walter Winchell

  4. #4
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    Some prize "winners" in psychology:


    List of Ig Nobel Prize winners - Wikipedia


    Fritz Strack, for discovering that holding a pen in one's mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier - and for then discovering that it does not.

    Evelyne Debey and colleagues, for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.

    Laurent Bègue, Brad Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, and Medhi Ourabah, for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.

    Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan, and Tulio Guadalupe for their study "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller"

    Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh

    Presented to Gian Vittorio Caprara and Claudio Barbaranelli of the University of Rome La Sapienza, and to Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, for their discerning report "Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities"

  5. #5
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    And here I was thinking the field of psychology was not making substantially important research.... silly me
    ​"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." ~ Walter Winchell

  6. #6
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    I think I found a new life goal... Win a Nobel prize in psychology...

    Research projects with great potential

    number 1. Why people pick their noses at trafic lights thinking nobody’s seeing them all while sittings in waterless aquarium on public display.

    Number 2: Why people pick their noses and eat it. And even when caught blatantly deny it

    But im pretty sure after seeing the list of winners there’s a good chance many research funds and papers have and graduate thesis's have probably already been published on those 2 subjects.
    ​"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." ~ Walter Winchell

  7. #7
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    For a number of years now, I have been wanting a shoe company to find a correlation between their comfortable, activity-inspiring footwear and lower rates of depression and anxiety It could be called The Skechers Study Half of the participants could be required to journal about their foot comfort (in order to enhance mindfulness)

  8. #8
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    Re: Little Evidence for Link Between Time on Digital Devices and Lower Wellbeing

    All depends on how expensive the shoes are...

    results of the study would have to start after the initial break in period when shoes actually become comfy and after the trauma from the financial blow, especially if said participant has a spouse “you paid what? For a pair of shoes?” Followed by the proverbial

    ​"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." ~ Walter Winchell

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