Living under social media glare can depress teens, especially girls

Girl with phone

Yvonne Kelly, a professor at the University College London's Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care who co-led the research, urged parents and policymakers to note its results.

The team interviewed around 11,000 14 year olds who were part of the Millennium Cohort Study. When it comes to body image and self-esteem, more girls were affected but the researchers noted that the gap was not as significant.

There are countless studies linking teens' social media use with depression, but that has advocates wondering if technology might actually be the best way to reach those suffering.

When the researchers looked at underlying processes that might be linked with social media use and depression, they found that 40 per cent of girls and 25 per cent of boys had experienced online harassment or cyber bullying.

The study revealed that the magnitude of depressive symptoms was larger among girls than boys. Their depressive moods could directly be correlated with the time they spent on social media platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.

In other words, those experiences were tied to frequent social media use, which means they could play a role in the depressive symptoms.

The study was performed on 10,904 individuals aged 14 and above, to assess whether social media use leads to depressive symptoms in adolescents due to various factors such as online harassment, sleep deprivation, self-esteem and body image.

Researchers found the most important routes from social media use to depressive symptoms were shown to be via poor sleep and online harassment.

Depression linked to social media is nearly twice as high among teenage girls compared to boys, according to research by University College London (UCL).

When examining differences between girls and boys who spend the same amount of time on social media, the researchers found the stronger association between social media use and depressive symptoms for girls. Among teenagers who had perpetrated online bullying, 32.8 per cent of girls and 7.9 per cent of boys were depressed.

"Inevitably there is the chicken and egg question, as to whether more dissatisfied children, who to begin with are less pleased with their body shape and have fewer friends then spend more time on social media". These asked about their social media use and assessed their mental health. Social media could be blamed for the sleep disruption say the authors of the study.

He added that he often points his patients' families to the American Academy of Pediatrics for tips on how to establish healthy social media habits in the home.

Social media is a fact of life for today's teenagers, though little is known about the impact of long-term exposure to its less than desirable aspects: cyberbullying, impossible beauty standards and violent content.

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