The use of social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat might be causing teenagers, especially girls, to experience depressive symptoms.

In a new paper, researchers analyzed the data of about 1,000 young people from the Millennium Cohort Study to see how social media use affects teenage boys and girls. The participants provided information on their social media habits, sleep patterns, body image, and experience of online harassment.

They also completed the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire which is used to screen for symptoms of depression.

The findings were published in the journal EClinicalMedicine.

Social Media Linked To Teen Depression

"The link between social media use and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls compared with boys," stated Yvonne Kelly, a professor at the University College London Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care. "For girls, greater daily hours of social media use corresponded to a stepwise increase in depressive symptoms. For boys, higher depressive symptom scores were seen among those reporting three or more hours of daily social media use."

Kelly and her colleagues found that 14-year-old girls are heavier social media users than 14-year-old boys. About two-fifths of girls surveyed spend more than three hours per day on social media apps compared to only one-fifth of boys.

About 10 percent of boys surveyed said that they do not use social media at all. In comparison, only 4 percent of girls surveyed stay off of apps such as Instagram and Snapchat.

The researchers also found that 38 percent of heavy social media users who are online for five or more hours a day show signs of severe depression.

How Internet Use Affect The Emotional Well-Being Of Teenagers

As researchers delve even deeper into the case, they found that more girls have experienced online harassment or cyberbullying than boys. About 40 percent of the girls surveyed experienced online harassment compared to only 25 percent of boys.

When it comes to body image and self-esteem, more girls were affected but the researchers noted that the gap was not as significant.

"My best bet would be the types of things that girls and boys do online," stated Kelly to CNN. "n the UK, girls tend to more likely use things like Snapchat or Instagram, which is more based around physical appearance, taking photographs and commenting on those photographs."

The paper also revealed that 40 percent of girls said that they often had disrupted sleep. Only 28 percent of boys had the same experience.

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