THIS WEEK IS Screen-Free Week, seven days devoted to shutting down electronic devices and connecting with life without the distraction of a screen, an exercise that could serve many of our youth well.

Our kids’ online and offline interactions are intertwined in their everyday lives and sometimes it’s hard to get them to disconnect from the virtual world. Research has shown both the positive and negative effects associated with the amount of time teens spend looking at a screen. But there seems to be a consensus that teens’ overdependence on their devices affects their psychological and physical well-being.

Screen Time and Health

Too much time online has been linked to mental and physical problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sleep deprivation and obesity. Research published in the journal Emotion showed adolescent self-esteem, life satisfaction and happiness decreased the more hours teens spent per week using their devices to surf the internet, play on social media, text, game and communicate via video chats. Researchers from San Diego State and Florida State universities discovered about 50 percent of teens who spent five or more hours looking at a screen each day reported experiencing thoughts of suicide and experienced prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness in comparison to those who did not spend as much time online.

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Teenage girl looking at cellphone