Some 12,000 British teenagers were analysed over an eight-year survey of United Kingdom households and researchers found that spending more time on sites such as Facebook has a "trivial" impact on how content adolescents are with their lives.
The effects of social media on the life satisfaction of teenagers are "trivial" in size, a new study suggests. These bidirectional effects were more consistent for females than for males, but again, these were modest trends.
This is the first large-scale and in-depth study testing not only whether adolescents who report more social media use have lower life satisfaction but also whether the reverse is true.
While the team found the effects of time spent on social media do appear to be wider-ranging for girls than boys, they said even then the effects remain tiny. "Thinking about social media like it's a black box that has kind of a ticking clock on top of it - that way of thinking about screen time is nearly certainly wrong".
Przybylski said the study adds to the evidence that it is not how much time children spend on social media that is important when it comes to wellbeing, saying that the focus on time "is like somebody crying wolf".
The current research has used improved data and statistical approaches and found most links between life satisfaction and social media use were trivial.
They plan to meet social media companies soon to discuss how they can work together to learn more about how people use apps - not just the time spent on them.
According to Prof Andy Przybylski, coauthor of the research from Oxford University, "99.75% of a young person's life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media".
"Social media is like all of these different rich things that kids do, whether it be learning how to play guitar on YouTube or right wing radicalization or... looking up pictures of extreme thinness", he told CBS News. However, there are still issues around screen time more generally, and a risk that screen time may interfere with other important activities like sleep, exercise and spending time with family or friends.
The effects of social media use on teenage life satisfaction are limited and probably "tiny", a study of 12,000 United Kingdom adolescents suggests.
He said, "We recommend that families follow our guidance published earlier this year and continue to avoid screen use for one hour before bed, since there are other reasons beside mental health for children to need a good night's sleep".
Prof Liz Twigg from Portsmouth University, who is now leading a large-scale study of the impact of social media on children, welcomed the study.
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