Social media is becoming increasingly dominant in the lives of teenagers. Recent polls have found that 95% of teens in the U.S. have access to a smartphone and almost 75% of teens have at least one social media account. At the same time, there has been a lot of worries about the effects of social media.
The recent study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Psychiatry suggests that teens who spend more than 3 hours a day on social media are more likely to have internalizing behaviors, which may be indicators of mental health problems.
About the study
The researchers collected data of 6,595 U.S. teenagers aged 13 to 17 between 2013 and 2016 from the federally funded Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study (PATH).
The study found that:
|Teens using no social media||Teens using less than 30 minutes per day||Teens using 30 minutes to 3 hours per day||Teens using 3 to 6 hours per day||Teens using more than 6 hours per day|
|Less than 17%||32%||31%||12%||8%|
The study also found that:
Teens experiencing only internalizing problems
Teens experiencing only externalizing problems
Teens experiencing both internal and external problems
Teens experiencing no or low problems
Internalizing behaviors and externalizing behaviors
Typical internalizing behaviors include:
—Difficulty coping with anxiety
—Directing feelings inward
Externalizing behaviors include:
—Other observable behaviors
In the study, the researchers found that social media use was associated somewhat with externalizing behaviors, but it was more powerfully linked to internalizing behaviors in the long term.
What people should do
"Our study shows that teens who report high levels of time spent on social media are more likely to report internalizing problems a year later. We cannot conclude that social media causes mental health problems, but we do think that less time on social media may be better for teens' health," said lead author Kira Riehm.
Although social media may bring teens negative effects, it is able to connect introverted teens on the internet and bring them comfort. "We need to find a better way to balance the benefits of social media with possible negative health outcomes," said Riehm.