Under the Hood

Adolescents Likely To Suffer Social Withdrawal Due To Social Media Use

There is another reason for parents to monitor teens’ social media use. Researchers found that spending more than three hours a day on the platform can increase the risk of social withdrawal and other internalizing behaviors.

The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, analyzed social media exposure’s impact on mental health of adolescents. Researchers focused on internalizing and externalizing behaviors of U.S. teens aged 13 to 17. 

Internalizing can be directing feelings inward, social withdrawal and anxiety or depression. Externalizing behaviors include disobeying, aggression and acting out.

The research team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health gathered data on nearly 6,600 teens between 2013 and 2016. Each participant received questionnaires asking about the time they spend on social media and whether they experience symptoms of internal and external mental health problems each year.

Results showed that using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms in any amount of time increased the risk of teens to develop symptoms of both internalizing and externalizing behaviors. However, those who used social media for three hours each day had the highest risks of having internalizing problems.

"Many existing studies have found a link between digital or social media use and adolescent health, but few look at this association across time," Kira Riehm, study lead author and a doctoral student in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School, said. "Our study shows that teens who report high levels of time spent on social media are more likely to report internalizing problems a year later.”

Teens On Social Media

The latest polls showed that nearly 75 percent of teens in the U.S. have one social media account, MedicalXpress reported Wednesday. The platform mainly enables them to connect with friends and obtain information. 

But having a social media presence also puts teens at risk of cyberbullying. Riehm said their study did not determine that social media directly causes mental health problems.

However, the findings highlight the importance of reducing the time spent on any of the platforms to improve teens' health. 

"We need to find a better way to balance the benefits of social media with possible negative health outcomes," Riehm said. "Setting reasonable boundaries, improving the design of social media platforms and focusing interventions on media literacy are all ways in which we can potentially find this equilibrium."

Social Media Researchers continue to conduct studies to explore the benefits and negative effects of spending time on social media. Pixabay

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