Screen Time and Mental Health in Young People
RTE News reports that researchers at Oxford University found little evidence to support many peoples' fears that screen time can damage young peoples’ mental health. RTE reports that the study of 12000 young people in the UK, Ireland and the US shows that screen time has no appreciable effect on mental health. On the face of it this seems a strange and hardly believable finding. The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott once said “there is no such thing as a baby”. He wasn’t saying that there are no babies. What he was saying is that it does not make sense to talk of a baby in isolation. Babies always occur in a context, such as baby and mother, baby and grandfather, baby and siblings, baby and orphanage and so on. In other words “baby” always occurs in connection with someone or something else. Maybe the Oxford research finding about screen time seems strange because, like Winnicott, it can be argued that there is no such thing as “screen time”, it is always “screen time with …”. Even if the Oxford research is valid, all it is telling us is about screen time, it tells us nothing about what is on the screen, or what the screen time is keeping us from or is helping us with. It says nothing about the interactions happening around the screen. Even reading this blog post is screen-time-with-my-blog-post, it is something happening between you and me, mediated through this screen. The screen itself probably does little enough harm (thanks to bluelight filters and the like).
Ah but what’s on the screen and how we interact with it … well that is a different matter and much good and ill can come of it. This is what we should be interested in.
[screen time, young people, mental health, social media]
RTE news app (accessed 5th April 2019)