A friend suggested I write a column about kids spending more time on their iPads than playing sports. It got me wondering how kids, particularly teens, are spending their time. I also wondered if kids really do spend more time with electronics than sports, or if it’s just a perception.

I learned pretty quickly that finding current and trustworthy data to answer my questions was a bit tougher than I expected. There’s a lot of information available, but much of it is several years old or contradicts other data. For this article, I used studies and data from reputable organizations knowing information from other groups may differ.

Not surprisingly, most teens don’t get enough sleep or exercise, and spend too much time in front of a TV, computer, or tablet screen. What is surprising is that according to a recent study from JAMA Pediatrics, only 5 percent of kids meet guidelines for sleep, exercise, and screen time. The guidelines are not what I would call unrealistic or terribly difficult. JAMA Pediatrics says teens between 14 and 18 years old should sleep eight to 10 hours a night, exercise one hour a day, and limit screen time to less than two hours per day.

Anyone who’s been around teens knows they’re attached to their phones. This is confirmed by data from the Pew Research Center, which says 95 percent of teens have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections fuel more online activities, with 45 percent of teens online “almost constantly.”

There’s now a name for smartphone addiction. It’s called nomophobia, and it means having a fear of being without a mobile phone. I admit to rolling my eyes when I first read about the phobia, thinking we don’t need a clinical-sounding name for not wanting to turn off and walk away from a phone. Yet when I look at statistics, mobile phones are in fact consuming a lot of users’ time. According to BankMyCell, smartphone users:

  • Check their devices 63 times a day.
  • Spend two hours and 51 minutes per day on their phones. When combined with time spent on tablets, that number jumps to four hours and 33 minutes each day on the devices.
  • Tap, swipe, or click their phones 2,617 times a day.
  • Spend one hour and 16 minutes a day on the top five social media apps.

Spending a lot of time on phones and online can have many negative side effects. A rise in depression among teens has been linked to social media use while BankMyCell says teens who spend five hours a day on electronic devices are 71 percent more likely to have suicide risk factors than those using them for one hour a day.

When it comes to exercise, Pew Research found that teens aged 15 to 17 play a sport for an average of 45 minutes a day. So, statistically speaking, teens do spend substantially more time on electronic devices than engaging in sports. Interestingly, it seems like electronics and sports could complement each other nicely. For example, teens can use their phones or tablets to film their golf swing, batting stance, shot put throw or other sport to critique and improve their technique.

Meanwhile, a lot of teens hold jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor says nationally, 35 percent of teens 16 to 19 years old have summer jobs. The most recent data from the American Community Survey, which is from 2013 to 2017, shows in Scott County, 52.5 percent of teens in that same age bracket have jobs. I suspect that’s due, at least in part, to Valleyfair, Canterbury Park, restaurants, stores and many other employers in our county.

Hopefully in the mix of work, sleep, exercise, and screen time, teens are finding time to have fun, create memories with friends and family, and optimize their summer break that’s moving along way too quickly.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

South regional editor

Deena is the regional editor for Shakopee, Jordan, Prior Lake and Savage and is passionate about uncovering the truth. Deena also enjoys gardening, playing tennis and up-cycling furniture.

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