Recreational screen time behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. A mixed-methods study among a diverse population-based sample of emerging adults

Brooke E. Wagner, Amanda L. Folk, Samantha L. Hahn, Daheia J. Barr-Anderson, Nicole Larson, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Understanding how screen time behaviors changed during the COVID-19 pandemic is important to inform the design of health promotion interventions. The purpose of this study was to quantify and describe changes in recreational screen time from 2018 to 2020 among a diverse sample of emerging adults. Participants (n = 716) reported their average weekly recreational screen time in 2018 and again during the pandemic in 2020. Additionally, participants qualitatively reported how events related to COVID-19 had influenced their screen time. Weekly recreational screen time increased from 25.9 ± 11.9 h in 2018 to 28.5 ± 11.6 h during COVID-19 (p < 0.001). The form of screen time most commonly reported to increase was TV shows and streaming services (n = 233). Commonly reported reasons for changes in screen time were boredom (n = 112) and a desire to connect with others (n = 52). Some participants reported trying to reduce screen time because of its negative impact on their mental health (n = 32). Findings suggest that screen time and mental health may be intertwined during the pandemic as it may lead to poorer mental health for some, while promoting connectedness for others. Health professionals and public health messaging could promote specific forms for screen time to encourage social connection during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4613
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Volume18
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 27 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, grant number R35HL139853 (PI: Neumark-Sztainer). SLH’s time was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, grant number T32MH082761 (PI: Scott Crow). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the National Institutes of Health.

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, grant number R35HL139853 (PI: Neumark-Sztainer). SLH?s time was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, grant number T32MH082761 (PI: Scott Crow). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Emerging adults
  • Mental health
  • Qualitative
  • Screen time

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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