Tag Archives: Screen

Screen time has little impact on teen wellbeing — even right before bedtime

A study of 17,000 teenagers analyzed the commonly-held notion that time spent in front of screens (whether it’s smartphones, TVs, or computers) is detrimental to a person’s mental health.

The results will certainly be pleasing to all teens.

Screens everywhere! Image in public domain.

Screen time

Whether we like it or not, screens have firmly entered our lives in the past few years, and for the foreseeable future, they are here to stay. Ever since personal computers became a thing, so too have concerns regarding these screens. They could be bad for your eyes, bad for your posture, bad for your mental health. Parents, in particular, have been worried about the effects on their children.

But at least in the last regard, there’s not much reason to worry. Screen time does not seem to correlate with mental wellbeing.

“Implementing best practice statistical and methodological techniques we found little evidence for substantial negative associations between digital-screen engagement and adolescent wellbeing,” said Amy Orben, a Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and College Lecturer the Queen’s College, University of Oxford.

Regardless of when and where teens were in front of screens, it had little impact on their mental health. It didn’t make a difference if it was on weekends orweekdays, or even if it was just 30 minutes before bedtime — something which has long been considered as detrimental. Even wearing glasses had a more negative association with adolescent wellbeing than ‘screen time’.

So how come this study found such unexpected results?

A rigorous methodology

Unlike other studies, this research used data from Ireland, the US and the UK, implementing a more rigorous methodology to gather how much time an adolescent spends on screens per day, including both self-reported measures and time-use diaries. This is particularly important as many studies are based solely on self-reported stats, which is notoriously unreliable. The team also implemented another notable technique: preregistration. In this approach, scientific rigor is ensured by requiring researchers to provide details of how they will analyze the data before it is gathered. This ensures that the data is handled properly and that it is not in a way that would favor a post-results hypothesis.

Simply put, it’s quite possibly the most rigorous study in the field, and found that screen time does little to harm teenagers’ mental health.

“Because technologies are embedded in our social and professional lives, research concerning digital-screen use and its effects on adolescent wellbeing is under increasing scrutiny,” said Orben. “To retain influence and trust, robust and transparent research practices will need to become the norm—not the exception. We hope our approach will set a new baseline for new research on the psychological study of technology,” added Przybylski.

However, this shouldn’t be treated as a green light for all-day screen-watching. It is just a call to re-evaluate something which, in many communities, is held a as a fact.

The study has been published in Nature Human Behavior.

Young person smartphone.

Child and teen obesity on the rise as they’re consuming too much… screen time

If you want to see you health improving, stop looking at the screen.

Young person smartphone.

Image credits Paul Henri Degrande.

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association warns that children and teens should try to wean off of screens. Screen time from any device is associated with an increased amount of sedentary behavior, they explain, which promotes obesity and other health complications associated with lack of physical exercise.

The heart of the issue

Sedentary behaviors — things like sitting, reclining, or laying down while awake — exert little physical energy and contribute to overweightedness and obesity. That’s not exactly news. However, we’re spending more time than ever before with our eyes glued onto screens, and this is especially true for children, teens, and yours truly.

Now, the American Heart Association (AHA) says that this lifestyle poses serious consequences to the health of teens and children.

The new scientific statement — a scholarly synopsis of a topic and official point of view of the emitter — was developed by a panel of experts who reviewed the existing literature on the subject of sedentary behavior’s relation to cardiovascular disease or stroke. The document holds that children and adolescents have seen a net increase in the recreational use of screen-based devices over the last twenty years. While TV-viewing has declined over the same period, those hours were usurped by other devices such as smartphones or tablet computers.

Current estimates are that 8- to 18-year-olds spend more than 7 hours using screens daily, according to the paper. However, the authors caution that almost all of the available scientific literature on this subject relied on self-reported screen time. Very few of the studies looked at which types of devices were used in different contexts, they add. All in all, this means that the studies can’t be used to establish a cause-effect relationship between the use of these devices and the health complications examined as part of the paper.

There is a large body of evidence pointing to the relationship between screen time and obesity, however. Writing for Reuters in late 2016, Lisa Rapaport reported that “a minimum five-hour-a-day [TV time] increased the odds of obesity by 78 percent compared with teens who didn’t have TV time,” and that similarly “heavy use of other screens was tied to a 43 percent greater risk of obesity.”

“Still, the available evidence is not encouraging: overall screen time seems to be increasing — if portable devices are allowing for more mobility, this has not reduced overall sedentary time nor risk of obesity,” says Tracie A. Barnett, chair of the writing group.

“Although the mechanisms linking screen time to obesity are not entirely clear, there are real concerns that screens influence eating behaviors, possibly because children ‘tune out’ and don’t notice when they are full when eating in front of a screen.”

“There is also evidence that screens are disrupting sleep quality, which can also increase the risk of obesity,” Barnett said.

The most important takeaway from the study is for parents and children to try limiting screen time, the authors add. AHA recommends that children and teens get no more than 1 or 2 hours of recreational screen time daily, which the authors also support. Given that younglings already “far exceed these limits,” they add, parents should step up to the plane and be vigilant about their children’s screen time “including phones,” Barnett believes.

Efforts to minimize screen time should center around parent involvement, the team explains. Parents can help push children to reduce the time they spend on devices by setting a good personal example and establish screen-time regulations around the house.

Try to keep screens out of the bedroom (as much as one can do that in the XXIst century), the team adds, as some studies have shown they can interfere with sleep patterns. Also, try to maximize face-to-face interactions and outdoor activities.

“In essence: Sit less; play more,” Barnett explains.

The team says that more research is needed to help us understand the long-term effects of screen time on children and teens. We also don’t really know how to help youngsters be less sedentary — a problem that the appeal of screens aggravates, but doesn’t necessarily cause. Before we can address this imbalance in how children and then choose to spend their time, we need more comprehensive information on the impact of today’s sedentary pursuits.

The paper “Sedentary Behaviors in Today’s Youth: Approaches to the Prevention and Management of Childhood Obesity: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association” has been published in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Kids who look at screens before bed time tend to sleep less, get fatter

It may be simpler to just leave your kids watch TV or play on the smartphone during the evening, but a new study indicates that using digital devices before bed causes nutrition and sleep problems in children.

Image via Pixabay.

It’s not the first time scientists have raised alarm flags about allowing children to use electronic devices before going to bed. Just a month ago, a review of all the literature available on the connection between electronic screens and child sleep reported that TVs and smartphones are stealing important sleep hours.

“Of more than five dozen studies looking at youths ages 5 to 17 from around the world, 90% have found that more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and poorer sleep quality,” a statement of the findings read.

Now, a new study seems to back that up, finding that screens can lead not only to sleeping problems, but also to a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). Caitlyn Fuller, medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, said the results indicate that screens induce a vicious cycle leading to worse sleep and nutritional habits.

“We saw technology before bed being associated with less sleep and higher BMIs,” Fuller said. “We also saw this technology use being associated with more fatigue in the morning, which circling back, is another risk factor for higher BMIs. So we’re seeing a loop pattern forming.”

Researchers asked the parents of 234 children between the ages of 8 and 17 years about their kids’ sleep and technology habits. The parents were also asked to say what kind of screens the children were looking at — whether it was a TV, smartphone, computer, or another type of game.

The team found that on average, children who spent time watching TV or playing video games got an average of 30 minutes less sleep than their counterparts. For kids who used their smartphones before bed, things were even worse: on average, they lost a full hour of sleep. Also, no matter what kind of technology they used, all kids who spent time watching screens were more likely to use their smartphone during the night.

In turn, this lack of sleep can lead to a higher BMI.

“We found an association between higher BMIs and an increase in technology use, and also that children who reported more technology use at bedtime were associated with less sleep at night,” Fuller said. “These children were also more likely to be tired in the morning, which is also a risk factor for higher BMIs.”

Of course, there are clear benefits to such technologies, but doctors warn against excessive usage. Getting proper sleep is especially important during childhood, for a healthy childhood development and mental health. Sleep is fundamental to optimal functioning during childhood, including health and behavior. Childhood obesity has grown by 1,000% worldwide in the last 40 years alone.

The study was published in the journal Global Pediatric Health.

Credit: RMIT University.

Nano-holograms 1,000 times thinner than the human hair pave way for smartphone-generated holograms

Credit: RMIT University.

Credit: RMIT University.

For decades, holograms have been a staple of science fiction. You’ve seen them in Star Wars or Avatar, but soon enough you might enjoy them virtually everywhere. That’s because a team of researchers from Australia and China was able to design a nano-hologram that’s thin enough to work with modern electronics. No 3D-goggles are required to see these holographic images which can be 1,000 thinner than the human hair.

Conventional holograms give the impression of a 3D object by modulating the phase of light. This gives the illusion of 3-D depth but to generate enough phase shifts, each hologram needs to be at least as thick as the phase-shifted optical wavelengths. Australian researchers from RMIT University, along with Chinese colleagues from the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) managed to pull a workaround by using a topological insulator. This is an exotic class of materials that has the unique ability to conduct electricity at the surface, but not on the inside through the bulk material.

Topological insulators also have unique quantum properties like a low refractive index at the surface and a ultra-high refractive index in the bulk. When a very fast direct laser is shone a thin film made from such exotic materials, it’s possible to enhance phase shifts for holographic imaging.

“We discover that nanometric topological insulator thin films act as an intrinsic optical resonant cavity due to the unequal refractive indices in their metallic surfaces and bulk. The resonant cavity leads to enhancement of phase shifts and thus the holographic imaging,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

For instance, the holograms demonstrated by the researchers operated at 60 nanometers of 3 mm × 3 mm in size

T-rex in your pocket

hologram dinosaur

(a) Original image of the dinosaur object. Note: this figure is not included under the article CC BY licence; Indominus Rex image is reproduced with permission from the publisher Comingsoon.net and copyright owner Universal Studios. (b,c) SEM images of the laser printed hologram patterns. The scale bar is 50 μm for b and 10 μm for c, respectively. (d–f) Holographic images captured by illuminating the nanometric holograms using 445, 532 and 632 nm continuous wavelaser beams. Scale bars for d–f are 1 mm. Credit: Nature Communications.

“Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers,” said  RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Min Gu in a statement.

“Integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant — a pop-up 3D hologram can display a wealth of data that doesn’t neatly fit on a phone or watch.

“From medical diagnostics to education, data storage, defence and cyber security, 3D holography has the potential to transform a range of industries and this research brings that revolution one critical step closer.”

The next step for the team is developing a rigid thin film that can be placed on an LCD screen, such as that on a smartphone or notebook, to enable everyday use of 3D holographic display. This will be immensely challenging as it involves shrinking the nano- hologram’s pixel size even further — at least 10 times smaller than it currently is.

“But beyond that, we are looking to create flexible and elastic thin films that could be used on a whole range of surfaces, opening up the horizons of holographic applications.”

Scientific reference: Zengji Yue, Gaolei Xue, Juan Liu, Yongtian Wang, Min Gu. Nanometric holograms based on a topological insulator material. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 15354 DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15354