Small screens impacting the mental health of kids says study

Mar 26, 2024, 7:39 AM

Small screens...

FILE.- In this Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, photo an iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans. One the face of it, a short-term outage that made certain social media platforms temporarily unavailable would seem to not be worth more than a shrug or passing interest. But the widespread attention given to the blanking of Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, Threads and Messenger platforms on Tuesday shows that it does matter. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report attributes the increased use of small screens to the increase in depression, suicidal ideation and anxiety in teens and kids. However, Child Psychologist Kristin Francis with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute said those small screens are only one factor.

“We never know for sure and it’s not ever just one variable that is making something happen. However, we know that social media impacts kids two different ways. Number one by the content, which they’re exploring in correlation with their developmental age. So, where their brain is at maturation wise,” she said. “And number two, what they’re doing instead of spending time with friends or sleeping or engaging in sports.”

According to Dr. Francis, the time spent online takes the place of things that kids should be doing developmentally.

“So, it’s really important for us to look at, what is the young person doing instead of social media? Just cutting it out in itself isn’t fully helpful as much as also replacing it with some good behaviors.”

Dr. Francis said the problem with small screens is that while they’re engaging in these behaviors, kids aren’t learning what they really need to.

“Kids’ main job is to learn how to be you know, how to be in the world like how to grow and how to develop skills… We learn a lot from interaction. The way that kids learn at school isn’t so much always in the classroom as much as on the playground with each other…” 

Being ok with boredom

Additionally, Francis said it’s a good idea to let your kids be bored once and while.

“Part of just kind of being a person on the planet is how to tolerate being bored or not having fun all the time, and that can lead to a lot of creativity and imagination.”

Dr. Francis said boredom helps kids appreciate the times when they do have something going on.

Ditching the small screen

In addition to letting them be bored occasionally, Dr. Francis said parents should be inviting their kids’ friends over, having them drop their cell phones in a basket.  Then encourage kids to play board games, foosball, ping pong, Nerf dart wars, or any of the other games they might “make-up.” 

Dr. Francis said it’s important for parents not to be frightened by studies like these, because children are resilient.

“I think sometimes articles come out and they instill a lot of fear in us as parents. And I just want people to know, like to take a deep breath. And so, talk to your kids about their social media use, their screen use in general, try to motivate them with incentives of rewards how to change their behavior and then really modeling it for them.”


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Mental Health

Homelessness advocates in front of Supreme Court...


With homelessness on the rise, the Supreme Court weighs bans on sleeping outdoors

It's the most significant case in the Supreme Court in decades on homelessness and comes as record numbers of people are without a permanent place to live.

1 day ago


Michelle Lee

Find greater happiness through joy-filled connections

Let’s Get Moving Host Maria Shilaos spoke with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Carla Manly to learn how we can boost happiness through connections.

3 days ago

It's Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Intermountain wants parents to know how to deal with the str...

Devin Oldroyd

How to handle new baby stress

Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital gives advice on how parents can prepare to handle the challenges of caring for a new baby.

4 days ago

An NYU study shows that people with volatile work schedules are more likely to have health concerns...

Emma Keddington

Volatile work schedules linked to burnout and health problems

A new study finds that volatile work schedules causes burnout and is detrimental to overall health.

7 days ago

Artificial intelligence could be the next tool used in mental health therapy....

Amanda Dickson

Artificial intelligence may be able to help with your mental health

University of Utah researchers are working to understand how artificial intelligence and mental health therapists might work together.

9 days ago


Michelle Lee

Exercise can have a big impact on your brain health

Let’s Get Moving Host Maria Shilaos spoke with Alex Martinez with Intrinsic Medicine to learn how exercise we can improve our brain health.

10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Small screens impacting the mental health of kids says study