Expert in Happiness Economics Agrees with Psychologists on Children’s Screen Time and Despair

In many countries, a surge in despondency among the youth is reshaping the trajectory of human joy, according to recent studies. The researchers contend that the decline in well-being among youngsters, primarily linked to increased smartphone usage in the past decade, has become a pressing concern.

A study led by a prominent expert in the field of happiness economics is gaining traction, especially as the authorities in the U.S. and several other nations express heightened worry about the impact of technology on children. This research might amplify calls for stricter restrictions on social media access, already prompting phone bans in schools and contentious hearings in Congress regarding TikTok.

Recently, an economist from Dartmouth College, David Blanchflower, unveiled a working paper indicating a significant surge in sadness and hopelessness over the past 15 years, particularly among individuals aged 14 to 24. This increase mirrors the substantial rise in screen time, especially among the youth, during the same period.

The statistics reveal that over 10% of young women reported experiencing a daily “bad mental health day” in 2022, up threefold from levels in 1993. Concurrently, the percentage of young women spending four or more hours per day on screens surged from 8% in 2003 to 61% in 2022.

Blanchflower termed these trends as a “crisis of our kids,” expressing concern about its potential long-term impact on their well-being and overall social progress. While the direct causal link between increased screen time and rising unhappiness isn’t definitive, he emphasizes the urgent need to address the issue due to its apparent danger.

In a previous interview, Blanchflower underscored the importance of addressing the upsurge in despair among young people, emphasizing the potentially dire consequences of not taking action to tackle the issue effectively. Referring to the correlation between screen time and emotional distress among the youth, he urged proactive measures to mitigate the impact.

Blanchflower’s hypothesis aligns with previous work that has criticized the detrimental effects of smartphones on children’s mental health. With mounting evidence pointing to the negative implications of prolonged screen time, including adverse psychological effects, the need for intervention is evident.

While there is increasing consensus on the need to regulate children’s access to technology, not all stakeholders are convinced of the singular role of tech in causing mental health issues. Despite acknowledging the potential harms of social media overuse, addressing its effects effectively remains a significant challenge, with differing opinions on the best approach to navigate this complex issue.

Educators, parents, and policymakers are now more open to contemplating limitations on children’s online activities, reflecting broader concerns about the impact of social media on youth. Recent legislative actions, such as banning social media for young children and proposing the sale of platforms like TikTok, signal a growing acknowledgment of the need to safeguard children’s online experiences.

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