In 2018, teenagers spent an average of 2.6 hours per day on social media
Since 7 years ago, the time teenagers devote to social networking sites has shot up by a whopping 62.5%. And there has been much speculation as to whether this extreme amount of screen time is causing teenagers additional anxiety and depression, with most believing that it does. Yet the latest research conducted with 500 youths (aged 13 to 20), and published in the journal, Computers in Human Behavior:determined that: “the amount of time spent on social media is not directly increasing anxiety or depression in teenagers”.
Taking a Look at the Research
The study, which was conducted by Sarah Coyne, a family life professor at Brigham Young University, has caused shock waves in the health and wellness arena. Coyne stated: “We spent eight years trying to really understand the relationship between time spent on social media, and depression for developing teenagers. If they increased their social media time, would it make them more depressed? Also, if they decreased their social media time, were they less depressed? The answer is no. We found that time spent on social media was not what was impacting anxiety or depression”.
Can Mental Health Issues be Brought on By Just One Single Stressor?
Research shows that mental health issues come about as a result of multiple factors, and that a single stressor is not likely to be at the root of someone’s anxiety or depression. To that end, this new study indicates that that rise in adolescent anxiety and depression, it is not solely down to the amount of time these youngsters are spending on social media. Shedding a new light on the research, Coyne remarked: “It’s not just the amount of time that is important for most kids. For example, two teenagers could use social media for exactly the same amount of time but may have vastly different outcomes as a result of the way they are using it”.
Moving Beyond the Debate on Screen Time
The researcher’s goal is to help the public at large put a spot light on: “the context and content surrounding social media use” . Coyne gives some easy to follow advice, which could benefit us all. – Firstly: rather than simply being a passive user, become an active user. So, like other content, make comments, and put up posts, as opposed to just scrolling. Secondly: restrict your use of social media, and never use it later than an hour before going to bed. And thirdly: One of the most important weapons against mental health issues, is getting sufficient sleep.
Ask yourself, what makes you engage with social media. Coyne noted: “If you get on specifically to seek out information or to connect with others, that can have a more positive effect than getting on just because you’re bored”.
In summary, while this study is very interesting, it is actually relatively small, and relies on questionnaires. Further research needs to be done. Further, the fact that excessive screen time for any purpose does have detrimental health effects, can never be ignored.