According to a new research whose findings are published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, use of social media may affect mental health of girls by disrupting positive activities. With risks such as reduction in physical exercise and sleep and increase in exposure to bullying, continuous social media use could have a negative effect on mental health of girls. Around 10,000 children in England aging 13-16 years were interviewed during the research study. Authors of the study are of the opinion that there could be other reasons for the impact on mental health of boys.
“Results of our study suggest that social media itself does not cause harm; however, frequent use might disrupt activities that positively impact mental health like exercising and sleeping, while increasing young people’s exposure to harmful content, especially the negative experience associated with cyber-bullying,” said the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health’s Russell Viner, who is a co-author of the study.
Association between social media use and psychological distress was stronger in girls
Although use of social media has been linked to mental health issues such as depression in girls in previous studies, it alone may not be the reason. However, as the study shows, mental health problems and lower wellbeing in girls might be results of exposure to cyber-bullying and reduction in exercise and sleep quality due to social media use.
Between 2013 and 2015, the researchers interviewed teenagers once a year to know the frequency of their social media use and how often they checked social media. Some of the social media sites focused on were Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook. The researchers considered it as ‘very frequent’ if teens checked or used social media over three times a day.
When asked about personal wellbeing and psychological distress in teens between 2014 and 2015, it was found that higher psychological distress in both sexes had connection with very frequent use of social media. In girls, however, the association was particularly clear.