It might be difficult for many teens to imagine a time when computers, televisions, video games and smart phones didn't exist. Modern teens spend over 1 1/2 hours a day on the computer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That time does not include using the computer for homework, watching movies online or playing video games. Altogether, teens spend more than 7 hours a day using a computer in some way, according to a March 2013 article in The Washington Post. Too much computer time in any form may pose problems for adolescents.
Computers and Sleep
If a teen spends at least 8 hours sleeping, 6 to 7 hours in school and 7 hours using a computer, there is very little time left for other activities, such as socializing face-to-face with family and friends, or exercise. One activity that may suffer is sleep. Teens’ circadian rhythm tends to turn them into night owls, who naturally stay up late and want to sleep late. When a teen has a computer in her room, it increases the tendency to continue online activities that cut into sleep time, according to Newman Regional Health.
Increased screen time in any form, including computers, tends to decrease activity and may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, according to a January 2013 article in “Psychology Today." A teen that spends seven or more hours on a computer per day may suffer unwanted weight gain or decreased physical fitness. A sedentary lifestyle in which teens spent large amounts of time in screen-viewing activities was also associated with a poorer quality of life, according to a June 2012 article in “Pediatrics.” The authors note that teens that have excessive amounts of screen time are less likely to engage in activities that are physically stimulating or intellectually challenging.
Computer use can be addicting, according to a 2009 article in “Current Opinion in Psychology.” Excessive Internet use, or Internet addiction, results in an inability to stop using the Internet even when negative consequences are apparent. These consequences could include a drop in grades, strained family relations, depression and financial costs due to Internet expenses. The authors note that teens who struggle with normal developmental activities such as social interactions may be more susceptible to Internet addiction because computer use offers a coping mechanism. The authors note that while moderate online activities such as video games can be cognitively stimulating, the benefits disappear with excessive use.
Other potential negative consequences of excessive computer time, according to “Current Opinion in Psychology,” are online gaming, sexual exploitation and cyber bullying. The authors note that in a survey of internet users, 33 percent of teens between the ages of 10 and 15 had been harassed online and 15 percent had been solicited sexually. Cyber bullying includes name-calling, gossiping, threats and malicious messages. Teens that are victims of bullies off-line, are proficient with computers and spend increased time online are more likely to be a target of cyber bullying.
- Washington Post: Teens Are Spending More Time Consuming Media, On Mobile Devices
- Kaiser Family Foundation: Generation M2 - Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds
- MayoClinic.com: Teen Sleep - Why Is Your Teen So Tired?
- Newman Regional Health: TV or Computer in Teen’s Room = Less Sleep
- Psychology Today: Teens, Screens, and Metabolic Syndrome
- Pediatrics: Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors and Health-Related Quality of Life in Adolescents
- Current Opinion in Psychology: Youth Internet Use - Risks and Opportunities
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