Teenagers and kids today often spend hours beyond their bedtime on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. A recent study presented by researchers from the United Kingdom says that too much online presence of teenagers at night can affect their mental health.
Questionnaires regarding nighttime usage of social media were provided for 467 students, aged 11 to 17, by researchers from the University of Glasgow.
Lead researcher Dr. Heather Cleland Woods and Holly Scott probed the teenagers and kids regarding their habits through further tests that assessed the quality of sleep, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and emotional investment of these students in relation to social media.
The researchers found that these students feel the pressure and anxiety of being constantly available on social media and of being unable to respond to messages or posts.
The study, which was presented at the British Psychological Society, showed that nighttime social media use and emotional investment were related to poorer quality of sleep. It also resulted to higher anxiety and depression levels as well as lower self-esteem.
Dr. Cleland Woods explained that it is important to understand how the engagement in social media may relate to adolescence as a period of increased vulnerability on the onset of depression and anxiety.
She also added that the overall usage of social media may affect the quality of sleep of teenagers and kids but it is the nighttime users, especially the ones who are emotionally invested, who are most affected.
However, it is still unclear whether the link between social media and the overall wellbeing of a teenager is caused by something more.
In the meantime, Dr. Cleland Woods proposed the idea of a 'digital sunset', a method that would enable smartphones and tablets to automatically turn off during bedtime. This idea would potentially cause improvements in the quality of sleep.
In a separate study commissioned by the National Citizen's Service youth program, it was found that most girls seek solace from social media when they are worried or anxious, rather than talking to their parents.
The study suggested that the cause of stress was likely from the increasing anxiety that stems from making important life decisions and that most teenagers suffer from decision paralysis. The top results for girls were exam results, making decisions about the future and arguments with peers.
Photo: Jason Howie | Flickr