The digital age brought with it many advantages such as easy access to information and many advancements in technology that can be used in daily life. Most prominent among the changes that came along with it is the proliferation of adolescent use of gadgets for various uses including, but not limited to gaming, online videos and social media.
As the accessibility to digital technology becomes easier with every new gadget, parents of adolescents grow concerned about how exposure to such technology affects their children. Many have argued that mere exposure to the technology bring varied negative effects on an individual's well-being, but a recent study that delves deeper into this conversation reveals that the truth may be just the opposite.
Researchers of the study first found that the existing literature regarding the effects of gadget use on adolescents' well-being did not much lean on evidence but rather on opinions. As such, the team took it upon themselves to address this information gap by collecting relevant data.
The researchers collected data from 120,115 British teens 15 years of age who completed self-reported mental well-being measures as well as a measure of their usage of digital devices such as television, smart phones and computer and video games.
A hypothesis regarding the use of digital devices is the displacement hypothesis which states that the use of digital devices is directly correlated and proportional to an individual's exposure. In the current study, the researchers focused on an alternate hypothesis, the digital Goldilocks hypothesis.
The Digital Goldilocks Hypothesis
Just like in the well known children's story, the digital Goldilocks hypothesis focuses on the amount of exposure that is "just right." What they found in the vast amount of data that they gathered is that the exposure to digital devices, if in moderate amounts, is not particularly detrimental to adolescents' well-being. In fact, moderate exposure may even be beneficial to the teen's connectivity to the world.
The findings, however, still does not completely disregard the displacement hypothesis. As the name of the Goldilocks hypothesis suggests, exposure on either end of the spectrum may have more specific effects. A lack of digital exposure may impede the necessary social skills that an adolescent needs to develop, something that they can cultivate from via different mediums from social media to gaming. On the other hand, over-exposure to such devices can, to a certain extent, displace important activities such as exercise and direct social engagement.
The study notes that 99.9 percent of teens use their devices at least once a day, though more on weekends than on weekdays. In addition, the pivotal point to detrimental effects of the use of digital devices were higher on weekends compared to weekdays. For example, teens could engage in digital activities for 22 minutes to 2 hours and 13 minutes longer on the weekends compared to weekdays before detrimental effects could be recorded.
However, it is important to note that while the concave-down trend is apparent for both the weekday and weekend data, the varying activities also record different pivotal points.
Though researchers state that the data they gathered suggests minimal detrimental effects of digital exposure on adolescents, their study further stresses the relevance of moderation when it comes to the utilization of digital devices.