In recent years, social media has always been pointed as the main culprit as to why a lot of teens are getting depressed. But a recent study conducted over 8 years has revealed that this is not always the case. This study claims that spending a lot of time on social media may not make teens depressed after all.
Researchers from Brigham Young University revealed that anxiety or depression in teenagers is not directly linked to the time they spend on social media. Results of the study was recently published in the scientific journal Computers in Human Behavior.
Over the course of 8 years, a team from the university led by research leader Sarah Coyne studied 500 adolescents between 13 and 20 years old, asking them to complete an annual questionnaire about their social media use and emotional well-being.
“We are in the middle of a mental health crisis in the US, and social media and cellphones are often blamed,” Coyne explained. “I wanted to look at long-term impact and look at it across teenagers’ adolescence to see what’s going on.”
The team conducted the study due to the abundance of research suggesting that mental health issues like depression and anxiety are on the rise for teens. A lot of parents are losing teens to these problems as young as 10 years old, with the rate increasing by 56% from 2007 to 2017.
The study released by the group is part of the longer study conducted by Coyne on how media affects children and families, something she has been doing for 20 years. But the results of the 8-year study surprised Coyne.
“Like everyone else, you assume social media is the bad guy,” she explained.
Considering that 70% of teenagers check social media multiple times daily, it is easy to assume that it is the culprit in the rise of mental issues in teens.
Coyne pointed out, however, that the time spent on social media is not the problem. The so-called “social media stressors” could still lead to various mental health issues.
“What teens are doing there is what matters more. Two people can spend the exact same amount of time on social media, but it might have a negative effect on one and a positive effect on the other, depending on what they are doing,” she said.
“But we found pretty much no relation between time spent on social media and an increase in depression or anxiety in boys or girls.”
As example, Coyne said that it is worse for a teen to spend 10 minutes of bullying on a social media platform than 2 hours of just idle scrolling.
Moreover, Coyne said that active use is much better than passive use, sharing that the latter is linked to more negative outcomes. So, what does she suggest?
“The biggest one is to be active — that’s posting, liking and commenting nice things. Passive use — scrolling and lurking — is related to more negative outcomes,” Coyne shared, adding that this is the advice she gives her kids.
It is also important to know why you are using an app.
“For example, getting on social media because you are bored tends to be related to more passive scrolling and then to negative outcomes such as higher depression symptoms,” says Coyne.
It is better if you use social media to connect with people or seek out information than just scrolling through because you are bored.
What is Social Media?
Social media are interactive computer-mediated technologies such as apps and websites used for creating and sharing content in a social network and virtual communities.