There Are Mental Health Risks To Girls Who Spend More Than An Hour A Day On Social Media


There Are Mental Health Risks To Girls Who Spend More Than An Hour A Day On Social

For tweens and early teens, the rise in time spent on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media is really quite dramatic. Culture minister Matt Hancock recently suggested the government could impose limits on the amount of time children spend on social media. In February, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee launched a new inquiry to examine the health risks to children and young teens of increasing amounts of time on social media.

Our new study set out to look at patterns of behaviour among ten to 15 year olds in the UK, and their levels of well-being, to see if all this time spent online was having a detrimental impact on their mental health. We found that teenage girls are by far the highest users of social media, and those who are using it for more than an hour a day are also at the highest risk of developing well-being problems in later teen years.

We used the youth participants’ data from the UK household longitudinal study, Understanding Society, following almost 10,000 young people from diverse backgrounds across the whole country between 2009 and 2015.

We asked the young people to report on how much time they spent on social media on a “normal school day”. A few reported no internet access or no time spent at all, but some were on it for four hours or more. We found that 10% of ten-year-old girls reported spending one to three hours a day (compared with 7% of boys) and this increased to 43% of girls at age 15 (and 31% of boys).

We assessed two measures of well-being for these young people. The first was a combined score of their answers to questions about satisfaction with schoolwork, friends, family, appearance, school and life as a whole. The second measure was a well-established questionnaire which asked the young people about their social and emotional difficulties.

At age ten, girls who interacted on social media for an hour or more on a school day had worse levels of well-being compared to girls who had lower levels of social media interaction. Additionally, these girls with higher social media interaction at aged ten were more likely to experience more social and emotional difficulties as they got older. While our study was unable to say that the higher level of social media use among young girls directly caused the mental health issues, there was a strong association.

For both boys and girls, levels of happiness decreased between the ages of ten and 15, however the decrease among girls was greater than that of boys.

What makes girls different?

There are number of possible reasons why girls are more affected by social media use than boys. Girls participate in more comparisons of their own lives with those of the people they are friends with or follow. Viewing filtered or photoshopped images and mostly positive posts may lead to feelings of inadequacy and poorer well-being. Girls also feel more pressure to develop and maintain a social media presence than boys. Social media presence requires constant updating and having friends share or like their content. If their perceived popularity decreases over time, there may also be an increase in social and emotional difficulties.

Boys, on the other hand, are much more likely to participate in gaming online and via consoles than they are social media, and that wasn’t covered by our study. Boys’ levels of well-being may be more related to gaming.

So what can be done to help protect young people from the potential damage to their mental health? Social media interaction does not appear to be a short-lived phenomenon. A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Life in Likes, suggested imploring social media platforms to check underage use and preparing children better for life in a digital age. The recommendations did not discuss potential gender differences; but the findings from our study suggest that boys and girls can have varying responses to high levels of social media interaction.

There have also been calls for the technology industry to look at in-built time limits. Our study really backs this up – the amount of increasing time online is strongly associated with a decline in well-being among the young, especially for girls. Of course, young people need access to the internet for homework, for watching TV and to keep in touch with their mates. But they probably don’t need to spend two, three or four hours chatting, sharing and comparing on social media every school day.The Conversation

About The Author

Cara Booker, Research Fellow and Deputy Director of Graduate Studies, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost

parentingAuthor: Donna Freitas
Binding: Hardcover
  • Oxford University Press USA

Brand: Oxford University Press USA
  • Christian Smith

Studio: Oxford University Press
Label: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Manufacturer: Oxford University Press

Buy Now
Editorial Review: Sexting. Cyberbullying. Narcissism. Social media has become the dominant force in young people's lives, and each day seems to bring another shocking tale of private pictures getting into the wrong hands, or a lament that young people feel compelled to share their each and every thought with the entire world. Have smartphones and social media created a generation of self-obsessed egomaniacs?

Absolutely not, Donna Freitas argues in this provocative book. And, she says, these alarmist fears are drawing attention away from the real issues that young adults are facing.

Drawing on a large-scale survey and interviews with students on thirteen college campuses, Freitas finds that what young people are overwhelmingly concerned with--what they really want to talk about--is happiness. They face enormous pressure to look perfect online--not just happy, but blissful, ecstatic, and fabulously successful. Unable to achieve this impossible standard, they are anxious about letting the less-than-perfect parts of themselves become public. Far from wanting to share everything, they are brutally selective when it comes to curating their personal profiles, and worry obsessively that they might unwittingly post something that could come back to haunt them later in life. Through candid conversations with young people from diverse backgrounds, Freitas reveals how even the most well-adjusted individuals can be stricken by self-doubt when they compare their experiences with the vast collective utopia that they see online. And sometimes, as on anonymous platforms like Yik Yak, what they see instead is a depressing cesspool of racism and misogyny. Yet young people are also extremely attached to their smartphones and apps, which sometimes bring them great pleasure. It is very much a love-hate relationship.

While much of the public's attention has been focused on headline-grabbing stories, the everyday struggles and joys of young people have remained under the radar. Freitas brings their feelings to the fore, in the words of young people themselves. The Happiness Effect is an eye-opening window into their first-hand experiences of social media and its impact on them.

Social Media And its terrifyingly Negative Effects on People with Depression and Anxiety

parentingAuthor: Victor Scott
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook

Buy Now
Editorial Review: The book discusses the link between social media and depression. Depression is one of the most prevailing mental disorder in today’s population. In this book, Major Depression and other different types depressive disorder are being discussed. We have tried to investigate whether social media causes depression and anxiety or not. The e-book focuses specially on the depression in children, teenagers and young adults and how it is being negatively affected by the excessive use of the social media.
Teenage depression is very common these days. Almost one out of every four teenagers is facing depressive symptoms. There could be multiple reasons for this depression. Unfortunately, social media is also causing problems by increasing some of the common depressive symptoms among teenagers and adolescents. This e-book discusses and argues some of the ways in which life of a teenager is getting affected in negative ways due to social media. Excessive use of social media is discussed in particular because excess of anything in one’s life is bad. Social media and depression in youth is a topic that is still under investigation by many psychological institutions.
Adult depression is also one of the major problem these days. Young adults specially are victim to this type of depression. Young adults are spending, on average, almost four hours daily on social media which is an eye-opening amount. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate how social media is linked with depression in adults and young adults. Young adult is a rather new term that is being used these days, so the term is defined and some common causes of depression are mentioned. Later social media is investigated to find in what aspects it is triggering the young adults and depression in them.
There are a total of nine chapters in this book-
Chapter 1 gives an overview on social media and it's grasp on society.
Chapter 2 discusses connection between mental health and technology.
Chapter 3 discusses about how "social" is social media.
Chapter 4 gives a detail account on Depression and it's types.
Chapter 5 investigates how social media and depression are related.
Chapter 6 gives an account on the negative effects of social media in children.
Chapter 7 gives an account on the negative effects of social media in teenagers.
Chapter 8 discusses the negative effects of social media in young adults and adults.
Lastly, Chapter 9 brings us to a conclusion of what we have discussed and understood from the previous chapters about social media and its terrifyingly negative effects on people with depression and anxiety.
This book has discussed some of the aspects of life in which social media is negatively affecting the mental health of depressed people. Research is still being done to dig deeper into this matter. However, it should also be kept in mind that there are many ways in which social media is helping people with depression such as anonymous helping centers, free online consultations, quality content to uplift their souls and etc. Hence a balance in almost every aspect of life is very much needed for the humanity these days.

From Smartphones to Social Media: How Technology Affects Our Brains and Behavior

parentingAuthor: Mark Carrier
Binding: Hardcover
Studio: Greenwood
Label: Greenwood
Publisher: Greenwood
Manufacturer: Greenwood

Buy Now
Editorial Review:

This book examines how today's technology, as it includes smartphones, computers, and the internet, shapes our physical health, cognitive and psychological development, and interactions with one another and the world around us.

• Addresses a topic of interest and of increasing concern for researchers, parents, and educators

• Examines both the positive and negative effects of technology across many aspects of physical, psychological, and social health

• Provides real-world examples through case studies to illustrate key concepts discussed in the book

• Offers additional information through interviews with experts in an accessible Q&A format


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email