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Teens, Screens, and Quarantine; the Relationship Between Media Use and Mental Health Prior to and During COVID-19

Wheatley Research Published in Science Direct

This study examines associations between media use and mental health for adolescents prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using two separate datasets that sampled adolescents (8th, 10th, and 12th graders) in 2018 (n = 31,825) and 2020 (n = 1,523), mental health (hopelessness and happiness), media use (time spent using a variety of media), and personal health habits (sleep) were assessed. Overall, we found that there were significant differences by year in adolescent hopelessness, with adolescents reporting less hopelessness in 2020 (during COVID-19) than in 2018 (pre COVID-19). There were not practical significant differences in adolescent happiness and loneliness. Adolescents also reported getting more sleep in our 2020 sample than the 2018 sample. Adolescents in 2020 spent significantly more time watching movies and video chatting, but less time texting and on social media than adolescents in 2018. Finally, we found that time spent video chatting and sleep had a different relationship with various aspects of mental health (happiness, hopelessness, or loneliness) in 2018 vs. 2020.

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