Social media use does not lead to depression and anxiety in teens
A new study by researchers at Brigham Young University found that the amount of time spent on social media does not directly increase anxiety and depression in adolescents. The corresponding article was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
The amount of time teenagers spend on social media has increased 62.5% since 2012 and continues to grow. Last year alone, the average time teenagers spent on social media was estimated at 2.6 hours a day. Critics have argued that increased screen time increases the risks of depression and anxiety in adolescents.
However, a new longitudinal study, for which scientists have collected data over eight years, shows that there is no clear correlation between the two factors. In their work, the researchers analyzed 500 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 20 who filled out questionnaires once a year. To measure depression and anxiety, participants answered questions, and researchers rated responses using various scales that indicate depression symptoms and anxiety levels.
At the age of 13, teens spent an average of 31 minutes to an hour a day on social media. These average levels increased steadily, so that by age 20 they were over two hours a day. This rise in social media activity, however, did not predict future mental health status.
According to scientists, conditions such as depression and anxiety are complex enough, and therefore cannot be considered the cause of their occurrence solely from the influence of social networks. This is a multifactorial process in which more than just the time spent on social media plays a role.
However, in order to prevent possible negative influences from excessive use of social media, scientists recommend three ways: to be active, not passive (not just scroll, but comment on posts and publish content); stop going to social networks at least an hour before bedtime; use social networks for any purpose, and not just like that.
A person on the social network Facebook tends to underestimate the time spent watching the feed. Moreover, even social media-related pictures take more time than it seems. The study, carried out by scientists at the University of Kent in the UK, is published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
In the experiment, 44 adult participants were shown 20 images: five associated with Facebook (marked with social media symbols, a Like button, and so on), and five simply associated with the Internet (for example, marked with an @ symbol). To this were added ten non-network reference images. After examining each image (the time for displaying the picture was set by the computer), the subjects evaluated the time they spent on it.
It turned out that the most underestimated was the time spent looking at Facebook pictures, the Internet pictures were slightly less distorted, and the control pictures did not cause distortions in the estimation of the time spent on them.
The authors point to the uneasiness of the findings, because 76% of Facebook users log on to it daily, more than half – several times a day, and previous studies link frequent use of the social network with an increased risk of depression.