Australian researchers are encouraging mothers of young children to avoid all forms of screen-based activity (tablets, smartphones, etc.) in order to reduce their anxiety levels, which can already be high due to busy days and broken nights. Mothers could even try a "digital detox" to help avoid burn-out.
A recent study, published in the journal, Plos, has linked the amount of time spent on screen-based sedentary activities to the risk of developing anxiety. Women aged between 25 and 34 present the highest risk, since this age group is more widely connected to the internet and social networks.
Researchers from Deakin University in Australia studied 528 Australian mothers with an average age of 37 and with children aged between two and five years old. Almost 30 percent of them showed signs of anxiety.
The mothers were given a questionnaire asking them how many hours they spent using screens (TV, computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) during their leisure time and at weekends. Their anxiety level for the previous week was measured using a predefined scale of anxiety criteria.
The results showed a clear link between long periods of leisure time spent on a computer or handheld device and higher anxiety levels. What's more, anxiety levels were found to increase with every hour spent using such devices. However, the study found no link between watching TV and anxiety symptoms.
The researchers also found that physical exercise did not counteract the negative effects of these new technologies. Even mothers getting plenty of physical exercise, but spending long periods on a computer or handheld device, were still at higher risk of anxiety.
It can be difficult to change behaviors in a population with such strict time constraints. However, the researchers suggest that mothers could try a "digital detox" to limit their screen time. This could even be made into a challenge among friends to give moms more of an incentive to switch off.
The scientists suggest breaking up sedentary lifestyles that include too much screen time by going for a walk or doing a few stretches, for example. It can also be useful to set a maximum time limit for using handheld devices, such as 20 to 30 minutes, before switching to another activity or taking a break.
Finally, to reduce stress levels and improve the quality of family life, experts recommend banishing tablet use in bed, at mealtimes, on trips or excursions, or when on holiday.