Teens at Greater Risk of Depression Playing on Their Phones at Night.

Story at a Glance.

  • Researchers at the University of Glasgow have reviewed social media effects and the effect on teenage depression, anxiety and reduced sleep.
  • Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.
  • While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected. This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested.

It’s always been a pretty tough gig being a teenager, raging hormones, peer pressure, changing body shapes, it’s a veritable hive of activity! And if all the normal elements of teenage life weren’t enough, now we have the world of social media to add into the mix.

In a study from the Pew Research Centre, it was found that 92% of teens report going online daily. And 24% of those are online “almost constantly,” with 13 to 17 years old going online several times a day.

It’s probably not surprising that it’s an overwhelming experience for teenagers. Social media is prolific in our contemporary lives. The platform options are endless, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, all demanding a high volume of interactivity, adding to the continuous pressure to be constantly online. Frankly is it any wonder that they are struggling?

But there may be something we can do to help reduce the pressure. Turning off their phones and devices at night time may help.

A new study1 by researchers at the University of Glasgow has reviewed social media effects and the effect on teenage depression, anxiety and reduced sleep. The need to constantly be available and the pressure to respond 24/7 to social media is making adolescents increasingly vulnerable.

Dr Cleland Woods, the lead researcher of the study explains, “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this. It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and wellbeing, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear.”

The results of their study showed that night time specific social media use along with the emotional investment was related to lower self esteem and higher anxiety.

“While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected. This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off,” Woods says.

Which means something fairly simple in terms of actioning: teenagers would benefit from turning off devices several hours before bed. Might be only mildly more challenging than trying to get them to tidy their bedroom!

References

[1] The study was presented at the BPS Developmental and Social Psychology Section annual conference in Manchester.

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