UW study: Less screen time, more physical activity leads to better mental health for kids

Oct 31, 2021, 12:35 PM
mental health...
(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Parents, your suspicion is now backed up by a study from the University of Washington which confirms more physical activity and less screen time leads to better mental health for children.

(Pause so you can ask them to get off their phones and go outside.)

The UW study tracked the daily activities of 1,000 children ranging from ages 6-17 from Oct. 22 to Nov. 2, 2020. At the time, the United States was in the midst of a third wave of new COVID-19 cases and most of the students in the study were learning fully online (50.6%) or in a hybrid model (27.2%).

Chance to see aurora borealis across Washington before Halloween

Families reported a daily average of about 4.4 hours of recreational screen time for their children, which was consistent with pre-pandemic estimates.

“I think what the pandemic forced upon families was screen time was needed for school in most cases,” said Dr. Pooja Tandon, an associate professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine, and the study’s lead author. “Screen time was also sometimes the only way for social interaction for children. So the recreational screen time was more than optional in some cases.”

More screen time means less time for playing outside. Additionally, only 195 kids in the study of 1,000 reported 60 minutes of daily exercise. On average, kids got about 60 minutes of activity 3.9 days per week.

Out of the 1,000 kids studied, 143 were diagnosed or being evaluated for anxiety, 110 for depression, 160 for ADHD, and 116 for a behavioral problem. Researchers say less activity and more screen time was associated with higher rates of each condition across all ages.

The study also took pandemic-related stressors into account, and children most affected were even less engaged in physical activity and more involved with screens.

“I recognize that this is an incredibly challenging time for parents, and I think there are opportunities as families for us to just prioritize these health behaviors, knowing that it’s important for both physical health and mental health,” Tandon said.

The study was published this month in JAMA Network Open.

Local News

Bates Technical College...
Bill Kaczaraba

Tacoma’s Bates Technical College grabs attention of White House

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will have her first stop at Bates Technical High School and College in Tacoma.
1 day ago
Sam Campbell and Darren Dedo

Mariners’ fandom at an all-time high ahead of playoff appearance

The return of (meaningful) October baseball has led to a busy day for shoppers at the Mariners Team Shop at T-Mobile Park.
1 day ago
travel, touchless...
Nicole Jennings

Sea-Tac Airport expects rush of travelers this autumn

Summer may be over, but don't expect the crowds to be gone at Sea-Tac Airport if you're jetting off on vacation this month.
1 day ago
mariners flag...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Mariners flag flies atop Space Needle celebrating playoff berth

The Mariners are celebrating their first playoff in 21 years for all to see, with former catcher and Ms icon Dan Wilson hoisting the team flag on the Space Needle.
1 day ago
(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)...
Niku Kazori, KIRO 7 News

‘It’s going to be busy’: Snohomish’s Craven Farm celebrates 40th year of pumpkin patches

It’s officially fall, which brings pumpkin patches and fall festivals! For many Seattleites, that means heading out of the city to farms.
1 day ago
Darren Dedo

Cops investigating after two teens shot in Seattle’s Pioneer Square

Seattle Police Department (SPD) detectives are investigating after an 18-year-old man and a 13-year-old boy were shot
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
UW study: Less screen time, more physical activity leads to better mental health for kids