Screen Time and Teens: An Interview With Zarin Rahman
Zarin Rahman is a senior at Brookings High School in South Dakota. She won the 1st place 2013 Addiction Science Award. Her project explored how the amount of time spent looking at an electronic screen affected teens’ mood, academic performance, and decision-making. After receiving her award, she told the writers of the Sara Bellum Blog about herself and her winning project.
What inspired you to research addiction science?
I started conducting addiction research after watching and being inspired by my father, who is also an addiction research scientist. From a young age, discussing different topics of neuroscience and addiction with him encouraged me to pursue my own research in this field. The biggest inspiration came from my own personal experience with screen-time exposure, sleep deprivation, and the effects they had on me.
Sleep deprivation and longer screen-time exposure had the same effects on me as the other subjects of my research. I used to notice that longer screen-time exposure delayed my sleep time, which then caused increased daytime sleepiness. Sometimes I drifted off into microsleeps—when someone falls asleep for just a few seconds—missing vital lessons at school. This also affected my mood and thinking. Following my mom's advice, I tried to limit exposing my recreational screen time, especially at night, and got amazing results. From this personal experience, I designed the project to determine if increased recreational screen time—including computer and Internet use, video game playing, and text messaging—and sleep patterns are associated with mood, thinking, and working memory in adolescents like me (13 to 18 years old).
What were the most exciting and challenging aspects of doing the research you submitted to the Addiction Science Awards?
The most exciting and challenging aspects of my research happened to be the same thing. My project required human participants, and working with both adolescents in middle school and my classmates in high school was quite the experience. It was exciting to work with my peers. However, it was also challenging: Completing research with such a large number of human participants is always difficult and time consuming, because of all the paperwork and experiments that have to be done.
Do you plan to continue researching addiction?
Addiction research is one of the most fascinating research areas, and I would love to expand my own research in this field. I plan to study science in college, as well as pursue a career in science. As of now, I would love to major in neuroscience, with a concentration in pre-medicine, and aspire to become a pediatric neurologist in the future.
Do you have any recommendations for high school students interested in doing their own research?
My recommendations to other high school students is to first consider keeping up to date with current scientific research by reading as many research articles as possible. Current research articles will help you start thinking of research ideas. And second, never give up. Although sometimes it may seem impossible, which it certainly felt like at times to me, there is always something that will fall together if you keep trying.