Wow, only two more sleeps till the Rolling Stones concert, I love the Stones; Barney, Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and Bam Bam…can’t wait. The interview on tonight’s Bob Pritchard Business radio Show is Brian Marcel who took a chance on assisting Eastern Europe bosses run their own businesses when the wall came down . It paid off big!
The public and experts alike have blamed social media for a long list of mental health issues, including rising rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior among America’s youth. But is it true?
Recent research shows that social media use likely doesn’t have a significant impact on teenagers’ life satisfaction. A new study in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health suggests social media is associated with mental health issues, but only under certain circumstances, and only for certain people. In girls, frequent social-media use harmed health when it led to either cyberbullying and/or inadequate sleep and exercise. But these factors didn’t have the same effect on boys, and the study didn’t pick up on specific ways that social networks could be harming them.
The message is that it’s not social-media use, per se, that causes harm, it’s about getting a balance between social-media use and other age-appropriate activities and ensuring that there aren’t specific negative things happening online.
Researchers analyzed data from 10,000 U.K. teenagers over three years. The teens answered questions about the frequency of their social-media use and in-person social interaction, as well as their health and demographic profiles. In subsequent years, the same teenagers provided updated information about their social-media use, and responded to other questions about their mental health, sleep habits, physical activity and brushes with cyberbullying.
In 2013, only about 43% of the teens in the study said they regularly checked social media multiple times per day. That rose to 59% in year two, and 68.5% in year three. Over time, frequent social-media use was associated with decreased mental health and well-being, as measured by responses to questions about psychological distress, life satisfaction, happiness and anxiety. Social media had a stronger impact on girls, but the relationship was present for boys as well.
When researchers examined which habitual social-media users also reported cyberbullying, lack of sleep and lack of exercise they found that those three factors could almost completely predict whether frequent social-media use would harm a teenage girl’s well-being. Cyberbullying appeared to be the most damaging to girls, followed by lack of sleep and lack of exercise.
In boys, however, these factors only explained 12% of the relationship between social media and poor mental health. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, girls tend to be more susceptible than boys to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety regardless of screen time. Girls also experience more cyberbullying than boys, and girls may be uniquely bothered by certain aspects of it, including comments about appearance and negative comparisons with others.
It’s perhaps more surprising that lack of rest and exercise stemming from online activity did not seem to affect boys, since both sleep quality and physical activity are strongly associated with mental health, regardless of gender. The discrepancy may be use patterns, since girls reported more frequent use of social media overall. It may be that boys are not sacrificing sleep and exercise to the same extent that girls are. The study couldn’t fully assess the duration of teens’ social-media use, only how many times per day they checked various apps and sites. Despite these limitations, the study can help guide teens toward healthier lifestyles, as one of the first to look into specific ways that social media may harm mental health over time.
The key messages to young people are: Get enough sleep; don’t lose contact with your friends in real life; and physical activity is important for mental health and well-being. If you look after yourself in those ways, you don’t have to worry about the impact of social media. Takeaways for parents of teens are similar. They should encourage teenagers to stay active and turn off their phones at night—and perhaps more importantly, they should specifically ask about cyberbullying, since that seems to be a primary source of harm.
The emphasis needs to be on the mechanisms and the content rather than just black-balling social media.
Why do all your 500 selfies look the same?