A new study produced some unexpected results in assessing the effects of the national lockdown on American teenagers beginning in March in response to the Covid crisis, including the fact teens did less gaming.
The study by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) and the Wheatley Institution was authored by was authored by Jean Twenge (San Diego State University), Sarah Coyne (Brigham Young University), Jason Carroll (Brigham Young University and Wheatley), and W. Bradford Wilcox of IFS.
Among the findings were these:
- Depression and loneliness were lower among teens in 2020 than in 2018.
- Teens spent less time on social media and gaming in 2020 compared to teens in 2018, at least during the school year, although teens did increase their consumption of TV and videos.
- Importantly, teen well-being varied by family support and connection. For example, mental health was significantly better for teens in two-parent families, and teens who spent more time with their families and who felt more connected to them were less likely to report being depressed.
- Teen well-being was also impacted by financial distress during the pandemic: 25% of teens whose parent had lost a job reported being depressed, vs. 16% of teens without a parental job loss. And 26% of teens who were worried about their family not having enough money were depressed, vs. 13% who did not have this concern.
The authors note that “this relatively positive picture for mental health occurred despite many of the challenges faced by the teens in our survey.
“Nearly one out of three teens (29 percent) knew someone diagnosed with COVID-19. More than one out of four (27 percent) said a parent had lost a job, and one out of four (25 percent) were worried about their families having enough food to eat.
“Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) were worried about catching the virus, and two-thirds were worried about not being able to see their friends. Nevertheless, 53 percent of teens said they believed they had become a stronger and more resilient person since the beginning of the pandemic.”
And in a finding that ought to give lockdown critics something to think about, the study found that “with many parents working from home and most outside activities cancelled for both parents and teens, the majority of teens reported increased family time.
“Fifty-six percent of them said they were spending more time talking to their parents than they had before the pandemic, and 54 percent said their families now ate dinner together more often.
“Forty-six percent reported spending more time with their siblings. Perhaps most striking, 68 percent of teens said their families had become closer during the pandemic.”
Of course, critics of lockdowns can also point out that shutting down the economy for months on end isn’t the only way to encourage increased family time.
But perhaps everybody can agree that federal social policy overall ought to have as a fundamental goal encouraging and protecting intact two-parent families and making possible more time to be families.