Kids and the Web: Is balance best?

How do you feel when you spend too much time on the internet?

Dr. Erick Messias, a psychiatrist and epidemiologist, and his fellow UAMS professor, Dr. Juan Carlos, have found a correlation between heavy internet/gaming and depression among young people.

They looked at the results of the past two Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, a biannual report by the Centers of Disease Control in which thousands of young people are asked about their health habits. Kids who said they spent five or more hours surfing and playing were more likely to have had two-week periods of sadness in the past year. They also were more likely to have contemplated, planned or attempted suicide.

Which came first: the screen time or the sadness? They freely admit they don’t know.

Also interesting, kids who never played/surfed were more likely to have been sad than those who played or surfed an hour or less a day. The non-users were more likely to have thought about or planned suicide than some of the other groups and were the second likeliest to have attempted suicide.

Again, the authors don’t know why this is so, but a good bet is that a large percentage of the non-users are living in poverty, which is a risk factor for depression and suicide.

Still, maybe balance is best. Messias lets his own son play/surf one hour a day and two on the weekends.

More here in my column this week for the Arkansas News Bureau.

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