VANCOUVER -- A B.C. study revealing the impacts that too much screen time can have on teens' mental health is highlighting the importance of extracurricular activities, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, conducted at the University of British Columbia, looked at how recreational screen time was associated with teens' mental well-being. 

The results showed that those who spent less than two hours each day doing activities like browsing online, playing video games and using social media had higher levels of life satisfaction and optimism. They also had lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. 

"Although we conducted this study before the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings are especially relevant now when teens may be spending more time in front of screens in their free time if access to extracurricular activities, like sports and arts programs is restricted due to COVID-19," said the study's lead author, Eva Oberle, in a news release. 

Researchers used a population-level study that involved more than 28,700 Grade 7 students from 365 schools across 27 B.C. school districts. 

"Our findings highlight extracurricular activities as an asset for teens' mental wellbeing. Finding safe ways for children and teens to continue to participate in these activities during current times may be a way to reduce screen time and promote mental health and wellbeing," Oberle said. 

Results from the study suggested teens who were involved in extracurricular activities were less likely to spend more than two hours on screen time. The study also found that girls were more negatively impacted by longer screen time than boys were. 

Oberle said researchers need to do more work to understand why there's that difference.

"We do know that some forms of screen time can be beneficial, like maintaining connections with friends and family members online if we cannot see them in person, but there are other types of screen time that can be quite harmful," she said.

"There are many nuances that are not well understood yet and that are important to explore."

The study was published in the journal "Preventive Medicine."