Under the Hood

Does Social Media Use Badly Affect Teen Life Satisfaction?

Parents may now relax when they see their kids spending time on social media in the morning after eating their breakfast, after school or along the road during a trip. A new study shows that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites have a small impact on teenage life satisfaction. 

The findings, published in the journal PNAS, come from the analysis of data from 12,000 adolescents in the United Kingdom. Researchers conducted the study in an effort to answer the question of whether social media use could negatively affect the life of young people, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The researchers from the University of Oxford found that social media use only affected less than one percent of a teenager's well-being. Family, friends and school life all appeared with greater impact on the participants of the study. 

"[Up to] 99.75 percent of a person's life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media," Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, said. "Parents shouldn't worry about time on social media - thinking about it that way is wrong." 

For their study, the researchers analyzed data on how long participants spend time using social media on a normal school day and on how satisfied they were with different aspects of life. The team followed the teens from 2009 to 2017. 

The researchers plan to conduct another related study that will focus on the specific effects of social media and other factors that were having an impact on young people’s well-being. They also called on social media companies to coordinate and provide data on how people use their apps. 

Amy Orben, co-study author and psychology lecturer at University of Oxford, said the companies should release their usage data and support independent research.

"Access is key to understanding the many roles that social media plays in the lives of young people" she said. 

However, the scientific community should also look at how spending time on social media interferes with other important activities, such as sleep, exercise and time with family or friends, according to Max Davie, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. 

"We recommend that families follow our guidance published earlier this year and continue to avoid screen use for one hour before bed, since there are other reasons beside mental health for children to need a good night's sleep," he said.