Is Media Use Helping or Hurting Kids' Psychological Functioning?

Earlier this year in the Journal of Child and Family Studies researcher Christine McCauley Ohannessian released a study looking at how media use affects the psychological adjustment of teens. Ohannessian gave 348 14 to 16 year olds a questionnaire that surveyed their family functioning, social support, perceived competence, involvement in extracurricular activities, and adolescent psychological problems. The questionnaire also surveyed media use. Media activities surveyed included watching television, talking on the phone, text messaging, e-mailing/IMing, playing video games (PlayStation, Nintendo, Game Boy,  Xbox, etc.) or computer games, and surfing the internet.

The findings showed that boys spend more time playing video games than girls and that girls spend more time talking on the phone. Perhaps surprisingly, media use was not found to be associated with poorer psychological adjustment for boys. On the contrary, for boys, media use appears to be a protective factor as those who spent more time watching t.v. or playing video games reported the least amount of anxiety. However, the opposite relationship was found for girls. That is, girls who watched t.v. or played video games more reported increased levels of anxiety and depression. The reasons for this are open to speculation. One possible reason for this is that boys are less enmeshed with their family to begin with and therefore are more readily able to escape into the type of fantasy offered by t.v. and gaming. In any event, the study suggests that parents of girls who watch a significant amount of t.v. or play video games have cause for concern.

You can read more about the study here.

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