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Kids who go straight to screens after school more miserable

The team analyzed data from 61,759 school students.

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gaming, education and school concept - sad boy with laptop and headphones at home
Kids who spent more time on screens were found to be more miserable. (Ground Picture/Shutterstock)

By Jim Leffman via SWNS

Kids who go straight onto their screens after school are more miserable and feel less healthy than those who do homework or play outside, a new study reveals.

Those who meet up with friends, go to sports practice or perhaps have a music lesson feel much better about themselves, researchers claim.

They also found that kids didn't have to get out and exercise to be more positive than those on screens - as doing their homework or reading both had good results.

The team analyzed data from 61,759 school students in years 4 to 9 to see what they did between 3 pm and 6 pm.

It found that most students watched TV about 4 days of the school week and spent time on social media about 3 days of the week.

They measured the activities against well-being factors such as happiness, sadness, worry, engagement, perseverance, optimism, emotion regulation, and life satisfaction.

Overall the study conducted by the University of South Australia and the Department for Education, found that children’s well-being is heightened when they participate in extra-curricular activities, yet lowered when they spent time on social media or playing video games.

Lead researcher, University of South Australia’s Dr. Rosa Virgara says the research highlights an acute need to encourage children to participate in activities other than screens.

She said: "Our study highlights how some out-of-school activities can boost children’s wellbeing, while others, particularly screens, can chip away at their mental and physical health."

“Screens are a massive distraction for children of all ages. Most parents will attest to this.

"And whether children are gaming, watching TV or on social media, there’s something about all screens that’s damaging to their wellbeing.

“It’s interesting because you might think that it’s the lack of physical movement that’s causing this, yet our research shows that doing homework or reading, both sedentary activities, positively contribute to wellbeing, so it’s something else.

“In fact, we found that children’s wellbeing was higher when they participated in extra-curricular activities even if they already reported being happy."

She added “Helping children develop a good sense of personal wellbeing is paramount in today’s uncertain environment.

“This is especially important for primary school-aged children as they’re learning about the challenges and risks that full-time school can present; but it’s equally important for teenagers who are facing a range of physical, social and emotional changes.

“What this shows is that we need to find ways to encourage children of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in activities that keep them away from TV, computers and mobile devices.”

The study, published in the journal BMC Pediatrics showed that students in lower socio-economic backgrounds who frequently played sport were 15 percent more likely to be optimistic, 14 percent more likely to be happy and satisfied with their life, and 10 percent more likely to be able to regulate their emotions.

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Conversely, children who played video games and used social media almost always had lower levels of well-being: up to nine percent less likely to be happy, up to eight percent to be less optimistic and 11 percent to be more likely to give up on things.

Dr. Virgara added: "Children who were more at risk tended to come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, which indicates a clear need for greater support in these areas,”

“All in all, the message is clear – gaming, watching TV, playing on computers, and scrolling through social media are not helping build or sustain positive well-being in children.

“It’s certainly a challenge, especially as most children have been brought up on devices, but if families can be more aware of the issues associated with screens, then perhaps we can find a better balance of screen time and other out-of-school activities.”

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