Is an increase in child mental health problems the fault of technology?

Computers and the internet are largely responsible for the increase in mental health problems in children, Public Health England (PHE) claims.

According to, children who spend four hours or more in front of a screen each day are most at risk of developing mental health problems. However, even spending a relatively short amount of time on the internet can increase the risk. PHE believes that using computers too much is causing depression, loneliness and low-self esteem in children.

Researchers found that a third of all teenagers say they feel unhappy at least once a week and one in ten children has a mental health problem. Moreover, 750,000 teenagers feel as if they have no reason to live.

PHE's research is part of a report submitted to the Commons health select committee, reports It claims that each hour of screen time increases a child's likelihood of developing a low self-esteem and other socio-economic problems.

"Children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression," the report notes. "This relationship is particularly negative among those who engage in high levels of screen use - more than four hours a day."

More than 85 per cent of children over the age of 13 now have at least one account on a social networking site, such as Twitter or Facebook. The amount of time being spent in front of a screen is increasing too. Between 2006 and 2010, the percentage of boys playing computer games for two or more hours a night rose from 42 per cent to 55 per cent. For girls, the proportion climbed to 20 per cent - up from 14 per cent.

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