A study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, found that spending less than two hours per day of recreational screen time associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and optimism, and lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms, especially among girls.
Similarly, extracurricular participation was associated with better mental health outcomes.
“The findings are especially relevant now when teens may be spending more time in front of screens in their free time if access to extracurricular activities, like sports and arts programs is restricted due to Covid-19,” said the study’s lead author Eva Oberle from University of British Columbia in Canada.
“Our findings highlight extracurricular activities as an asset for teens’ mental wellbeing,” Oberle added
Finding safe ways for children and teens to continue to participate in these activities during current times may be a way to reduce screen time and promote mental health and wellbeing.
Data for this study was drawn from a population-level survey involving 28,712 Grade 7 students from 365 schools in 27 school districts.
The researchers examined recreational screen time such as playing video games, watching television, browsing the internet, as well as participating in outdoor extracurricular activities such as sport and art programs after school.
They then compared its association with positive and negative mental health indicators.
The findings showed that adolescents who participated in extracurricular activities were significantly less likely to engage in recreational screen-based activities for two or more hours after school.
Taking part in extracurricular activities was associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and optimism, and lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Longer screen time (more than two hours a day) was associated with lower levels of life satisfaction and optimism, and higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms, the study has found.
“Further research is needed to examine why the negative effects of screen time were more detrimental for girls than for boys. She also hopes to focus future research on the effects of different types of screen time,” the authors noted.