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In new research from Canada, it’s been discovered that teens who engage in frequent use of social media are more likely to say they have struggles with mental health issues that are not being addressed. Particularly of concern is the amount of time a teen spends browsing and posting on websites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Lead study author Dr. Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga of the department of epidemiology at Ottawa Public Health states, “It is difficult to speculate what mechanisms may link the use of social networking sites to mental health problems.”
While the results of the study do not prove a cause-and-effect link, Dr. Sampasa-Kanyinga noted that the “use of social networking websites can lead to poor mental health, and poor mental health may be a reason why youth use social networking sites. That said, it could be that kids with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone. Or it could be that greater time online exposes one to more opportunities for cyberbullying, for instance.”
Sampasa-Kanyinga and co-author Dr. Rosamund Lewis reported the findings of their study online and more recently in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking journal.
For the study, researchers looked at part of a youth health survey that contained responses from more than 750 Canadian students in grades 7-12, with an average age of 14 years old.
About a quarter of the youngsters participating in the study said they accessed social networking sites for more than two hours each day, while a fifth said they never do or rarely did so. More than half the participants said they surfed these kinds of sites, but for less than two hours each day.
Nearly two-thirds of youngsters described their overall mental health as either “excellent” or “very good”. Another fifth stated their mental health status was “good” and other 17 percent responded with “poor.” Ultimately the authors of the study found that teens who went online two or more times per day were more likely to describe their mental health status as “poor” and less likely to have their own perceived needs for mental health support addressed.
When teens have a high use of social networking sites, it is linked to a higher risk for psychological distress and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. The authors believe some of the issues may stem from the anonymity of social networks, which heightens the risks of cyberbullying. Such social networking sites may also encourage teens to compare themselves to others and it makes cigarettes and alcohol appealing and easily accessible.
Scott Campbell, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan, said, “Generally speaking, I would add that too much of anything is going to have negative implications, whether it be kale or social media.:” He went on to conclude, “the social implications of social network sites are highly dependent on how people use them, not just how much they use them.”
Photo by Drogas Libres
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