London: The widely accepted notion that spending time online, gaming or watching TV, especially before bedtime, can damage young people’s mental health is incorrect, according to a major study at the University of Oxford.

Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) say there is little evidence of a relationship between screen time and well-being in adolescents, based on the study’s data from more than 17,000 teenagers.

“Implementing best practice statistical and methodological techniques we found little evidence for substantial negative associations between digital-screen engagement and adolescent well-being,” says researcher Amy Orben.

Andrew Przybylski, co-author of the study, adds: “While psychological science can be a powerful tool for understanding the link between screen use and adolescent well-being, it still routinely fails to supply stakeholders and the public with high-quality, transparent and objective investigations into growing concerns about digital technologies”.

The research found that adolescents’ total screen time per day had little impact on their mental health, both on weekends and weekdays. It also found that the use of digital screens two hours, one hour or 30 minutes before bedtime did not have clear associations with decreases in adolescent well-being, even though this is often taken as a fact by media reports and public debates.

The full study, ‘Screen, Teens and Psychological Well-Being: Evidence from Three Time-Use-Diary Studies’ has been published in the journal ‘Psychological Science’.

Orben adds: “Because technologies are embedded in our social and professional lives, research concerning digital-screen use and its effects on adolescent well-being is under increasing scrutiny. To retain influence and trust, robust and transparent research practices will need to become the norm—not the exception”.