It’s no secret that social media isn’t great for mental health—studies have shown it again and again, and some of the developers of social media have sounded warnings about the addictiveness of certain features. Now, to add to the growing body of evidence on how it affects mental health, a new study finds a link between social media use in childhood and poorer psychological well-being in adolescence. And not surprisingly, it’s stronger for girls than boys.
The researchers, from the University of Essex, looked at data from almost 10,000 families in the U.K. from 2009 to 2015. The children in the study were 10 at the first time point and up to 15 years old at the last. Their mental health was assessed using two reliable surveys, which measured happiness and well-being across different parts of their lives (school, family, etc), and social and emotional challenges.
The results were published in BMC Public Health, reports Forbes.
According to the research, girls used social media more than boys did, and their mental health seemed to suffer for it. At age 10, 10% of girls were on social media for an hour a day, vs. 7% of boys. But at age 15, the disparity grew: 43% of girls were using it at least an hour per day, vs. 31% of boys. At age 10, girls reported lower levels of happiness, and they reported more social and emotional difficulties as they aged, compared to boys.
And it's worth pointing out that some social media use seems to be OK—it’s just the excessive, hours-per-day use that seems to be the problem. “Of course, young people need access to the internet for homework, for watching TV and to keep in touch with their mates,” study author Cara Booker wrote in The Conversation. “But they probably don’t need to spend two, three or four hours chatting, sharing and comparing on social media every school day.