Modern technology has shaped all of our lives in practically every way possible, not all of them good. Electronic media especially has very little competition vying for our cognitive attention and consumer dollars. Today, practically all Americans — tweens and teens included — possess computer processors in just their smartphones that are more accessible, faster, more powerful, and more portable than just a generation ago. Between the smartphone, the tablet, the laptop, and the gaming device, desktop computers are becoming a thing of the past. It seems the only people who watch television anymore are older adults. That great invention was commonly referred to as the “boob tube,” defined in the online Urban Dictionary this way:

boob tube

American slang (circa 1980) for the television, and serving as a bargaining tool by parents in disciplining their children, who referred to the time wasted watching it, and lowering their IQ too, hence “boob tube”

Turn that boob tube off and do your homework!


Rick Nauert, Ph.D. doesn’t have an equally disparaging name yet for modern electronic devices, but he has looked at the latest data on the adverse mental health impacts of electronic screen use and social media on teenage users. The clinical psychologist sounds the alarm:

New research suggests that greater amounts of daily screen time are associated with more insomnia symptoms and shorter sleep duration among adolescents.

The sleep deprivation associated with social messaging, web surfing and TV/movie watching, is linked to depressive symptoms.

Insomnia symptoms and sleep duration mediated the link between screen-based activities — specifically social messaging, web surfing and TV/movie watching — and depressive symptoms.

“Higher rates of depressive symptoms among teens may be partially explained through the ubiquitous use of screen-based activities, which can interfere with high quality restorative sleep,” said postdoctoral researcher Xian Stella Li, Ph.D.


I wonder how many parents and older adults also feel the effects of too much electronic media for news, information, entertainment, and professional and social connectivity? (asked the cranky retired pediatrician whose bedtime was delayed more than 45 minutes last night because an email needed a reply, Facebook needed to be checked, and a short video needed to be watched — all of which could have waited until morning). Not all screen-based applications have the same effects, notes Alexa Lardieri:

Among the electronic activities, gaming had a significantly stronger relationship to depressive symptoms than messaging.

Principal Investigator Lauren Hale, a professor of family, population and preventive medicine at the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook Medicine, said in the press release, researchers are interested if the adverse effects of screen time continue into adulthood and hope the results can be used to mitigate screen time use.

“These results suggest that parents, educators and health care professionals could consider educating adolescents and regulating their screen time, as possible interventions for improving sleep health and reducing depression,” Hale said.


Tomorrow on The PediaBlog, we’ll explore “TECH” parenting techniques to help manage child and teen use of electronic media and curb insomnia, mood changes and depression,  and, not trivially, the impacts on school and job performance. We all need to remind ourselves that it may be we who first need to manage our own modern day “boob tube(s)” habits.

Use your electronic screen device to read more PediaBlog on the health impacts of excessive screen time here.


(Google Images)