Depressed teenage girl looking at her phone on a bed. Text overlay says, "Teens and Screens: How Much Is Healthy?"

Screen Time and Teens: How to Manage It

Screen Time and Teens: How Much is Healthy?

Teens are spending more time on their devices than ever before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that on average, teens spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment alone – not including screen time spent for schoolwork or homework. With each additional hour spent online, the risk of social media addiction increases, along with the negative emotions associated with online interaction.

So, how much screen time is healthy for a teenager? That depends on what behaviors they’re exhibiting both on and off their phones or other devices.  Every teen is different. Parents and professionals should look at the teen as a whole to determine when device use is becoming a problem.

Depressed Teenage Girl Sitting On Bed At Home Looking At Mobile Phone

The time young people spend on screens has been linked with an array of mental health issues.

Some of the warning signs that indicate that a teenager may be struggling with their online engagement include:

  • Preoccupation with social media, video games or other digital activities, along with a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawal symptoms like irritability, sadness or anxiety when deprived of devices or internet access
  • Increased tolerance—a need and ability to spend more and more time online
  • Inability to control the frequency and length of their time online
  • Lying to family members about the amount of time spent on gaming or other online activities
  • Using technology to escape from, relieve or self-medicate negative moods, such as grief, anxiety, or hopelessness
What can parents or guardians do? Establish clear rules and set reasonable limits for your teen’s use of digital media. Consider these tips:
  • Encourage unplugged, unstructured downtime
  • Create tech-free zones or times, such as during mealtime or one night a week
  • Discourage use of media entertainment during homework
  • Set and enforce daily or weekly screen time limits and curfews, such as no exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime
  • Consider using apps that control the length of time your teen can use a device
  • Keep screens out of your teen’s bedroom. Consider requiring your child to charge their devices outside of their bedrooms at night.

If you are concerned about your teen’s screen time, consider scheduling an assessment with a mental health expert to determine whether professional help is needed.

Camino a Casa specializes in mental health treatment for youth ages 12-17 including residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and in-home behavioral services. Contact us today at 805-366-4000 to learn more about our therapeutic programs specifically for teens.

You make the decision, we’ll take care of the rest.  805-366-4000