Under the Hood

Social Media Is So Disrupting It Causes Mental Concerns Among Teens

A new study found that the effects of social media cause more problems than previously reported. Researchers found that teenagers’ online presence expose them to factors that could significantly affect their mental health. 

The study, published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, shows social media harms young people’s sleep and physical activity and increases their exposure to bullying, which all affect their wellbeing. 

"Our results suggest that social media itself doesn't cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyberbullying," Russell Viner, study co-author from the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said in a statement.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 10,000 children aged between 13 and 16 in England. The team interviewed the participants from 2014 to 2015 and asked about their life satisfaction, happiness, anxiety and social media, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat. 

Girls were found more exposed to the bad effects of social media on mental health compared to boys, CNN reported Thursday. Researchers said girls experienced psychological distress because of poor sleep quality and high exposure to cyberbullying. 

The longer the time they spent on social media, the greater the distress they experienced. Meanwhile, boys’ mental health appeared less likely to be significantly affected by cyberbullying and lack of sleep. 

The findings suggest that the widely used approach that only requires reducing social media use may no longer work in teens. Parents and healthcare providers should focus on strategies that could address the effects of cyberbullying, could improve teens’ sleep and encourage them to be physically active.

Such changes may help reduce the physical and psychological impacts of social media, according to Bob Patton, a lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Surrey.

"If the displacement of healthy lifestyles and cyberbullying can be attenuated, the positive effects of social media use, such as encouraging social interactions, can be more endorsed," Ann DeSmet, a professor at Ghent University in Belgium, said. 

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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