ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — Frequent social media use could have a negative impact on young people’s mental health, according to a new study.
For many teens, going even an hour without checking Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is a struggle. Twenty-four percent of teenagers go online “almost constantly,” according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
But more alarming than the time spent are the negative consequences that young people may suffer from due to too much screen-time.
The study, from Ottawa Public Health, suggests that teens who use social media sites for two hours or more daily are at risk for poor mental health, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, as reported by Huffington Post.
Researchers looked at data from 750 students in grades seven through 12 who took the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. The study found that 25 percent of students surveyed reported spending at least two hours a day on social networking sites. These same students were categorized as reporting more poor mental health issues, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and suicidal thoughts.
“It could be that teens with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone,” Dr. Hugues Sampasa-Kayinga, the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Or they would like to satisfy unmet needs for face-to-face mental health support.”
Sampasa-Kayinga notes that the link between social media and mental health issues is complicated, and that simple use of sites like Facebook and Twitter “cannot fully explain by itself the occurrence of mental health problems.”
Researchers are now investigating how this issue might be fixed, and in some cases turning the problem into the solution.
“We see social networking sites, which may be a problem for some, also being a solution,” Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold of the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego said, as reported by Huffington Post. “Since teens are on the sites, it is the perfect place for public health and service providers to reach out and connect with this vulnerable population and provide health promotion systems and supports.”
Experts also suggest parents pay attention to how much time teens are spending on these sites and its possible link to mental health issues.
The research was published online on July 13 in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.