When teens use their smartphones for more than four hours a day, it is associated with increased rates of stress, negative mental health effects, and a higher risk of drug use and suicidal thoughts.
A new study involving experts from Hanyang University in Korea examined the negative effects of smartphone use on young people’s health. The results are published in the English-language journal “PLOS ONE”.
Smartphone usage is increasing
Many young people own a smartphone, which they sometimes use for several hours a day. According to the team, there are already various research studies that have found that smartphone use among young people has increased significantly in recent years.
These studies also found that such increased smartphone use among adolescents is associated with a higher risk of various health impairments, including mental disorders, sleep problems, eye problems and musculoskeletal disorders, the experts report.
Negative effects investigated
To determine connections between daily smartphone use time and possible negative health consequences such as stress, sleep problems, depression, drug use and suicide risk, the researchers analyzed data from 54,809 Korean adolescents from the so-called Korea Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2017 and 2020.
The data evaluated included the approximate number of daily hours each adolescent spent using a smartphone, as well as various other health data. The participants were divided into the following groups based on their daily smartphone use time
- no smartphone use,
- zero to two hours of smartphone use,
- two to four hours of smartphone use,
- four to six hours of smartphone use,
- six to eight hours of smartphone use
- and more than eight hours of smartphone use.
Ultimately, data from 40,998 young people were included in the study.
What effect did smartphone use have?
First of all, the data analysis confirmed a significant increase in the average smartphone usage time of young people between 2017 and 2020. In 2017, 64.3 percent of young people used their smartphones for more than two hours a day, whereas in 2020 the figure was already 85.7 percent.
Adolescents who used their smartphones for more than four hours a day also had higher rates of stress, suicidal thoughts and substance use, compared to participants who spent less than four hours a day on their smartphones, the research team reports.
Some smartphone use is better than none
However, young people who used a smartphone for one to two hours a day had fewer health problems than participants who did not use a smartphone at all, the team reports in a current press release.
This, experts say, is consistent with studies indicating that some daily internet use may be linked to better physical and mental health in young people.
Smartphone Usage Guidelines
Overall, the results of the new study could help to create sensible guidelines for the use of smartphones by young people in the future in order to protect them from possible negative consequences for their health, the researchers conclude. (as)