WA News


Study to see if screens make kids depressed

A three-year study of West Australian students will aim to measure the impact of screen-based technologies on children's mental health.

The $360,000 research project will take three years and study how the use of the internet, online video gaming, social media and social network websites impact the mental health of more than 1400 youngsters aged eight to 18.

Three departments at the University of Western Australia will conduct the study with the help of 12 local schools, to see if the increasing use of screens affects the prevalence of depression, anxiety and loneliness in children.

Winthrop Professor Stephen Houghton, who will lead the study, said young people spent between four and seven hours a day using screen-based communication and entertainment, and so research was needed to understand any links between that use and mental health.

"The comprehensiveness of this study is unique and includes time, intensity and type of screen use, and will capture the way young people use multiple-screen mediums simultaneously," Professor Houghton said.

"The study will also include both 'mental wellbeing' and 'illness' measures, including validated measures of depression, anxiety, loneliness and social capital.

"Anecdotally we know that many parents and schools worry about the role of social network media in students' lives, and this study will help provide much needed evidence about the impact on mental health."