We’ve all heard reports that too much social media use for teens can lead to mental health problems, but some new research is outlining some other health risks parents and teens need to look out for. A large study that focused on teens ages 13 and 16 found that girls were most at risk to suffer mental and physical health consequences from too much social media use at a young age.
CNN reports about the study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal that suggests girls between the ages of 13 and 16 can suffer both mental and physical health issues from using social media apps. Researchers found that frequent users of social media were exposed to more bullying online and got less sleep and exercise each day.
Co-author of the study Russell Viner of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health explains how the findings highlight some of the risks associated with social media and teens. Viner says, “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 cyber-bullying.”
For teens who are not getting their much-needed sleep as well as not taking part in physical activities, bullying may have an even harsher effect on their already compromised mental state. The study involved some 10,000 teen respondents and found that 60% of the impact young girls face from psychological distress was due directly to a lack of sleep and cyber-bullying, with lack of physical exercise playing a smaller role. Boys at this age can also suffer psychological distress from frequent social media use, but it was not usually due to the same factors effecting girls.
In order to combat the risks social media poses on teens, lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Surrey Bob Patton explains some steps parents and teens can take. Patton says, “Building strategies to increase resilience to cyberbullying and that promote better sleep and exercise behaviours may well be what is needed to reduce both physical and psychological harms.”
What do you think of the new study that suggests too much social media in teens leads to less sleep, exercise and more mental distress?
What are some steps parents can take to reduce a teen’s exposure to the risks too much social media use pose?