Moderate time spent online helps teens cope better with stressful events


New research published in the journal Clinical psychological sciences reveals that adolescents (ages 13-17) in lower socioeconomic backgrounds who spend moderate time online after a stressful experience face adversity much better than those who spend many hours online or avoid technology altogether digital.

Teens are smart and use technology to their advantage. Since teens living in disadvantaged backgrounds tend to have fewer local supports, the study investigated whether online engagement helps reduce their stress. There has been a tendency to assume that teens’ use of technology is negative and harmful, but such a broad assumption is not supported by what we know about the developmental stage of adolescence. “

Kathryn Modecki, Lan author, Menzies Institute of Health and Griffith University School of Applied Psychology

To collect first-hand data on teens and the technology, the researchers provided iPhones to more than 200 teens living in disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Teens were asked to report on their use of technology, stressors, and emotions five times a day for a week while using iPhones just as they would use personal smartphones. The data were used to compare the emotional states of adolescents who used technology moderately, excessively, or not at all to cope with stress.

The results found that teens who used technology in moderation in the hours following a stressful situation rebounded more easily and experienced smaller surges of negative emotions, such as sadness and worry, compared to teens who did not use the technology. not technology or who regularly used technology as a coping mechanism.

“We found a fair ‘Goldilocks’ effect in which moderate amounts of online adaptation helped ease outbursts of negative emotions and dips in happiness,” Modecki said. “In the face of daily stressors, when teens engaged in seeking emotional support, they experienced better short-term stress relief. “

According to the researchers, the online space serves not only as a short-term distraction, but also as a resource for teens to find support and information about what is troubling them. By leveling the playing field for accessing this information and support, this coping strategy may be particularly relevant for adolescents in low-income settings.


Association for Psychological Science

Journal reference:

Modecki, KL, et al. (2021) Adolescent Online Adaptation: When Less Is More But Nothing Is Worse. Clinical psychological sciences.

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