Children and social media: a mental health crisis?

Social media can be a great way of connecting and keeping in touch with friends and family. But, there have been a number of warnings in the last few years on the effects it could have on our mental health – especially in children. How we can protect children from the dangers of social media has been an ongoing discussion, particularly in light of the fact that children are signing up earlier than ever.

The latest research into the effects of social media has drawn even more attention to the dangers. The researchers pointed out that, in girls, in particular, it can lead to an increased risk of depression. When looking at the differences in boys and girls, the study’s author, Yvonne Kelly, noted: “There’s an alarming difference.”

The researchers looked at 14-year-old girls and boys as part of the study. They found that the risk of depression in girls was very high; among girls who used social media for over five hours a day, there was a 50% higher risk of developing depressive symptoms. In boys, the risk was slightly lower, but was still 35% higher than in teenagers who used social media less.

However, the researchers did point out that the findings of this particular study couldn’t prove there was a direct link between social media and depression, only that there was a positive correction between the two. The scientists also described other factors which may contribute towards the increased risk. For instance, with increased social media use, there can be a reduction in sleep and a higher risk of cyberbullying.

As Yvonne Kelly continued to explain: “For both girls and boys, the more social media they use, the more likely they are to have mental health problems, but not that many studies have been able to look for the explanations why. We looked at four potential explanations simultaneously, and this is the first paper to do that.”

“We looked at sleeping habits; experiences online, so cyberbullying; how they thought about their bodies, or their body image, and whether they were happy with how they looked; and their self-esteem. All of those four things — the sleep, the cyberharassment, the body image or happiness with appearance, and the self-esteem — they are all linked with the risk of having depression.”

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