Teenagers who have an unhealthy dependence on the Internet are almost twice as likely to become depressed as other teens, giving parents yet another good reason to limit kids' screen time. That's the news from a study in Pediatrics, which tracked the Internet use of teenagers in China, where "Internet addiction" is considered a serious and growing problem.
Depression is common among teenagers; each year, an estimated 2 million teens and preteens develop clinical depression, and last year the federal government recommended that all teenagers be screened for depression. So parents may want to note the link between "Internet addiction" and depression, and keep a closer eye on children who depend on screen time as a pacifier or mood stabilizer. A recent study also found a correlation between video game use and ADHD. Like the "Internet addiction" study, no causal link has been proven, but one-third of children exceed the two hours of daily TV and computer screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Setting limits on screen time— and enforcing them—can really help.
"Think of media as a stranger being invited into your home to teach your kids for seven hours a day," says Victor Strasburger, a pediatrician who studies the effects of media violence and is chief of the division of adolescent medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. "Your kids could be learning 'good' things or potentially harmful things, or a combination of both." His advice: Stick to the AAP's guidelines on screen time; keep TV sets and Internet connections out of children's bedrooms; and no screen time for children under age 2.