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Your smartphone may hurt your kids. Find out how

by Jericho Zafra

IT’S that time of the day when you are busy doing all the work as a mom and have no time to stop your kids from crying. Well, giving your kids your phone to watch their favorite video online may stop them from throwing tantrums, but sooner or later, your kid will face the consequence of too much phone usage.

A new study from the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that excessive screen time may cause an emotional toll on kids.

The study revealed that greater screen time, particularly activities derived from playing video games and watching videos, was found to be prospectively associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The study was conducted on a nationwide sample of 9,208 children aged 9 to 10 years old in the United States. The sample also included children from different demographic backgrounds across the world, according to the authors. 

OCD is characterized by a cycle of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that prompt a person to engage in repetitive or compulsive actions (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions make it difficult to go about one’s regular life and are a source of substantial emotional distress.

According to the findings, a child’s risk of acquiring the disease increased by 11 percent for every hour that they watched videos and by 15 percent for every hour that they played video games during the duration of the study. 

The study tracked the kids for two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excessive involvement in video games is believed to be the root cause of gaming disorder, which has been linked to compulsivity and a loss of behavioral control, two of the most prominent symptoms of OCD, the study said.

An average of eight hours of recreational screen time per day was observed by the researchers at the start of the pandemic. This was four times the maximum amount of screen time that was allowed for the age group.

“Kids who are spending a lot of time playing video games, to some extent, even developing a video game addiction, I think that those kids report that they feel the need to play video games more and more and they’re unable to stop even if they try,” lead author Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a media report.

Other phone activities such as texting, video chatting, and using social media were not associated with an increased risk of having OCD. However, the authors pointed out that this may be attributed to the fact that this cohort did not yet use these activities to a significant degree.

The use of digital technology has penetrated the lives of adolescents to a greater extent than it ever has before. Both the use of screens and the prevalence of mental health issues among adolescents have been on the rise in recent years. This trend has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the majority of the evidence suggests a connection between excessive amounts of screen time and unfavorable psychological outcomes, the authors noted.

However, the researchers added that the total amount of time spent in front of a screen was only marginally associated with OCD, which was mostly explained by playing video games and viewing videos alone. 

Therefore, additional research is required to investigate in-depth relationships between watching videos, participating in video gaming, and OCD, as well as how these relationships change over time, and also to investigate potential underlying mechanisms, such as the content, context, and quality of videos and video games, the report said.



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