Using data from a large multi-country study, we analysed self-reported discretional screen time (i.e. screen time by choice, not screen time for school), school stress, and school satisfaction of 191,786 adolescents aged between 13 years and 15 years of age. The data were collected collected every four years, so we can see if there are trends over time.
The results are interesting! Over 1/3 of students reported high school stress, with girls being more stressed on average than bouts. Just slightly less than 1/3 of students reported high school satisfaction, again with girls being more satisfied with boys. When we add in amount of discretionary screen time, we see that as screen time increases across the cohorts, so does school stress. The same pattern, but reversed, occurs for school satisfaction.
So what could this mean? It’s important to remember that these are relationships and we can’t make causal inferences from them. It is possible that as teenagers use more screens they become more stressed and less happy at school, maybe they are falling behind at school to are too tired (if screen time cuts into sleep time) to thrive at school. On the other hand, it could just as easily be explained by students feeling stressed and unhappy at school (e.g. bullying, low self-efficacy) and use screens as a way to they to mitigate their negative experiences. Either way, the relationship is clear and fairly strong which tells us we need to do more to understand the costs and benefits of the type and amount of screen time consumed by teenagers.