• By Elizabeth Coots, Extension Agent

Family and Consumer Sciences

Less screen time linked to greater happinessWhen tech giants Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both reported that they placed limits on their children’s screen times, many parents were surprised. In light of recent studies, it may not be so surprising after all. One study looked at data from a survey taken by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders every year since 1991. The authors of the study found that after 2012, teens’ level of happiness suddenly decreased. While the study could not conclude the direct cause, the authors found a relationship between happiness levels and the amount of screen time reported by teens. Teens who spent more than five hours a day on activities involving a screen (internet, TV, video games, social media, texting, etc.) were less happy. Teens who spent more time on non-screen related activities like visiting with friends or playing sports were the happiest. This is not to say that screen time is a bad thing. Teens who reported having no screen time were still unhappier than teens who spent less than one hour a day on screened devices. The idea is to find balance between screen time and other meaningful activities. The trend in declining happiness is not just found among teens. Adults over 30 report being less happy than they were 15 years ago. There are many reasons why adults are unhappier, but screen time could play a role. National reports show adults are spending more time than ever before on activities with screens such as smartphones, computers and TVs.If you or your child feel a little unhappy lately without knowing why, you may consider looking at how much screen time your family is getting. Try to make time for other activities that you all find meaningful - one that does not involve a screen. Family movie nights are fun, but try mixing it up a little and host a board game night. When you do have dedicated family time, remember to try to stay off screened devices. Family time is a good opportunity to spend uninterrupted and focused time with each other. These are just a couple of tips for you and your family to try in order to reconnect with activities that may have been replaced with screen time. Take time to brainstorm your own list and see what other activities come to mind.

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