Another research has linked the excessive use of social media sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, to psychological distress, especially among teenage girls.
A team of researchers interviewed over 12,000 young students ages 13 to 16 in England. They were asked about how often during the day they check Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. After three years, the same respondents were asked to evaluate their levels of happiness, how anxious they feel, and if they are satisfied with life.
Social Media Linked To Psychological Distress
The paper published in the journal The Lancet revealed that teenage boys and girls who admitted to using social media more than three times a day reported poorer mental health and greater psychological distress. The girls, in particular, said that they feel less happy and more anxious.
However, the researchers explained that the negative impact of social media use to the female respondents' mental health was due to disrupted sleep, lack of exercise, and exposure to cyberbullying.
For boys, these factors were also observed but the impact on their mental health was significantly smaller. Further research is needed to find out what is causing psychological distress among male students who use social media.
"Our results suggest that social media itself doesn't cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyberbullying," explained Russell Viner, co-author of the paper.
This is not the first time that a study has linked social media use among teenagers to poor mental health. In July, another study warned that spending too much time browsing social media sites and watching television could impact the severity of depressive symptoms that young people experience.
What Parents Can Do
The researchers clarified that the study does not mean that social media is inherently evil. In fact, Viner said that social media can have positive impacts on teenagers.
Parents, however, should make sure that their children's use of social media is not interfering with activities that are known to improve mental health.
"But they should worry about how much physical activity and sleep they're getting, because social media is displacing other things," added Dasha Nicholls, one of the authors of the paper. "It's about getting a balance."