Dr. Grauer's Column - The Magic Combo For Teens
The Magic Combo For Teens
According to a study from the University of British Columbia published in the journal Preventive Medicine, if you're worried about your kids' mental health, particularly because of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates, here is the help you need:
Less screen time, and
More extracurricular activities.   
(A) spend more time in extracurricular activities, and
(B) have less than two hours of screen time after school
have better mental health. In this study, both factors were associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and optimism and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Longer screen time was particularly harmful for girls, as researchers saw a "significantly more pronounced" association between more screen time and worse mental health. But, to be clear: it's not healthy for either gender.
At least for me, there was an unexpected takeaway from this survey, and it had to do with the experiment’s design: To gauge mental health, the researchers asked students to rate indicators such as "I start most days thinking that I will have a good day" on a scale of "disagree" to "agree a lot."
The amazing implication is that by telling yourself “today is going to be a very good day,” or just starting with a smile, you can actually increase your odds of having that kind of a day. I have covered the optimistic mindset in my columns many times and the research to support its impact is enormous. When mental health is taking a dive, it is normally because you think you have no control over it, you are a victim, you are trapped. And when your spirits soar, it is accompanied with the sense that you are not a victim after all, that you have the power over your mood, peace of mind, and even your energy. You have a sense of openness.
It’s phenomenally simple: extracurricular activities (including unstructured play) are related to higher levels of optimism and life satisfaction — a trend that appeared across genders and independent of screen time, the study said. Too much free time indoors on your screen, and you create your own prison. Get outside!
There is a collateral impact of this way of living life. Don’t we need our kids to grow up developing the strongest possible connection to this terribly damaged, suffering, victimized natural world we live in—to love our ecosystems? Is that really going to happen on Sim City, or even coding your pixilated bunny to go and collect each level of carrots? Is this the humanity we need?
Since this is just a repeat of something I’ve covered a thousand times in blogs, why am I running it again? These findings come as thousands of kids and teens are staying at home more during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has limited in-person social opportunities, left kids on their screens for connecting, and made live extracurricular activities scarce. Teens who want to claim they are victims will have plenty of grist for their mill these days. Likewise, parents become victims, too, when they start believing that they have no choice, they are trapped, their children have all these “needs.” Like they didn’t create the conditions in their own homes.
Like we are a victim of the pandemic. So, I think it is extremely important to point out that, well before this whole pandemic, we were completely inundated with data about too much screen time and too much teen anxiety and depression. So, the message is clear for parents, teachers and friends who have influence over teens, the message is clear for all times, and I don’t think I can ever say the message enough:
Just do it!
 Pandemic's toll on mental health, CNN
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