DEC 20, 2022 6:00 AM PST

Researchers Make Connection Between Screen Time and Preteen Compulsive Behavior

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In a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, an international team of researchers led by UC San Francisco examined how the amount of time preteens spend looking at screens watching videos or playing video games could increase their chances of developing the mental health condition known as obsessing-compulsive disorder, or OCD, over a two-year period. This study holds the potential to help us better understand the connection between screen time and mental health.

For the study, the researchers interviewed 9,204 preteens ages 9-10 and inquired about the amount of time they spent on various screen platforms, with the average being 3.9 hours per day. The researchers followed up two years later and found that 4.4% of the preteens had matured stages of OCD. The study’s findings estimated a 13% increased likelihood of preteens aged 9-10 developing OCD for every hour of video games played and an 11% increase for every hour of videos watched.

"Children who spend excessive time playing video games report feeling the need to play more and more and being unable to stop despite trying," said Dr. Jason Nagata, MD, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCSF, and lead author of the study. "Intrusive thoughts about video game content could develop into obsessions or compulsions." Dr. Nagata also noted that both content advertisements and algorithms can worsen the behavior, as well.

"Although screen time can have important benefits such as education and increased socialization, parents should be aware of the potential risks, especially to mental health," said Nagata. "Families can develop a media use plan which could include screen-free times including before bedtime."

Sources: Journal of Adolescent Health

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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