mental health

Report: As Gen Z Ups Screen Time, Their Sadness Stats Rise



Is overuse of phones and social media harmful to the health of Generation Z?

With the human desire for connection evolving into a need for connectivity and the majority “always plugged into the online world, time spent with friends is down significantly. The feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness are shooting skyward for all young people,” Andrew Roth, founder of Gen Z research and strategy firm dcdx, tells Marketing Daily.  He notes that 73% of Gen Z-ers report sometimes or always feeling alone.

Dcdx’s just-released “Screen Time Report," now in its third year, shows Gen Z screen time continuing to increase, up 9% year-over-year to seven hours per day on mobile devices alone.

“We hoped to see a decline -- or perhaps a plateau” in screen time in 2023 “as more young people went to school, joined the workforce, and emerged from the post-COVID isolations into a more connected world,” Roth concludes in the report. “But as the data came in, we saw that this was not the case.



Indeed, the report calls TikTok, the clear leader in Gen Z usage time, an “addiction.”

The dcdx research, based on 157 video screen recordings of iPhone screen time settings submitted by 15- to 27-year-olds, found that Gen Z-ers are using TikTok for an average of nine hours weekly, up 50% from 2022.

Instagram, the leader in 2022, is now the second most-used app, but did experience a “significant year-over-year jump.” Nearly all other apps saw usage decline among the demographic, dcdx reports.

Most significantly, Snapchat, dropping 29% in screen time YOY, is “on its death bed,” declares the study. “The audience that once embraced it now perceives it as 'old,' and in 2023, it struggled to shed Snap’s 'middle school energy'…2024 may be the year Snap meets its fate.”

Facebook saw mixed results, with 15- to 20-year-olds using it less, but “surprisingly,nusage among older Gen Z-ers appears to be on the rise, with females leading this trend.”

Females and older Gen Z-ers are also leading the an overall defection from Twitter/X. “The Elon takeover and the transition from Twitter to X has certainly had an impact on X’s relevance with Gen Z,” the report notes.

Here are the top 10 apps for Gen Z, according to screen time: TikTok, Instagram, Messages, YouTube, Safari, Snap, Facebook, X, Spotify.

A widening gender gap was also reported by dcdx, with female Gen Z-ers dedicating “notably more time to their mobile devices compared to male Gen Z-ers. However, the lower frequency of pickups among females indicates that female Gen Z-ers spend more extended periods on their devices.”

Preferred apps for females stayed the same year-over-year: TikTok, Instagram and Messages, while for males, YouTube -- which led among them in 2022, followed by Instagram and Messages -- dropped out of the top three apps, with TikTok moving into second place.

The report says that screen time limits may help cure Gen Z’s screen addiction, with 22% of study participants setting screen time limits via Apple’s native limit function and spending an average of 1 hour less per day on their devices  But 50% of participants said they feel indifferent about how much time they spend on screens.

TikTok itself has set a limit of 60 minutes for users under 18, Roth says in the report, but that’s “a limit that can be skipped with a simple passcode.” And several states “are pushing for much stricter laws on social media for teenagers.”

“But change of any kind will face resistance,” Roth writes. “The war for attention has clear victors; and these platforms are not satisfied with just a victory.”

As for marketers,” he says, “this report can be used in different ways. Advertisers can use the information to more effectively manage their media spend, and brands can use this to understand where to prioritize their marketing efforts.”

But, he cautions, if “Gen Z hates anything, it is an ad appearing at the wrong time in the wrong place.”

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