Study finds screen time has soared among Montreal teens during pandemic

Seven out of 10 said they’re spending significantly more time on video games and social media.

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Seven out of 10 Montreal teens say they’re spending significantly more time on video games, watching videos or on social media during the coronavirus pandemic, even if 39 per cent of them say they’re fed up with staring at their screens, a study has found.

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The Montreal public health department, which conducted the study in April and May 2021, says the seven out of 10 teens who reported spending much more time staring at a screen other than for school were doing so on at least one type of digital medium. One-quarter of the teens said their screen time had significantly increased on three or more types of digital media.

Researchers asked 725 Montrealers between the ages of 13 and 17 to answer a questionnaire about their habits for the study.

Just over a quarter of respondents said they spend five hours or more per weekday on digital media, while 44 per cent spend at least five hours on digital media on weekends. At the same time, few teens spend under two hours a day in front of a screen — 12 per cent of respondents said they spend less than two hours using digital media on weekdays and eight per cent said the same for weekends.

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Just over three-quarters of respondents said they were using digital media during the pandemic to maintain or develop relationships, while 70 per cent said it was to learn new things.

However, the study found that “intensive” use of digital media — meaning more than five hours a day — is “significantly” associated with a drop in motivation for studies, lower school grades and lower morale. In fact, 32 per cent of the group considered “intensive” users of digital media expressed dissatisfaction with life. Many of them also said they were less physically active.

The survey participants themselves reported negative effects of their digital media use, the study said, adding that the negative impact reached “particularly high proportions in the intensive user category: one in five say that its use often interferes with their work or school performance, and one in three that it often interferes with their sleep.”

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Thirty-nine per cent of respondents said they’re sometimes or often fed up with staring at screens. The sentiment was strongest among those who said they have greatly increased use of multiple types of digital media during the pandemic.

“This observation,” the study said, “reinforces the hypothesis that the availability of places for interaction and leisure activities plays a determining role in the development of digital habits.”

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