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The latest research into the harmful effects of social media has found a link between increased social media use at age 10 and a reduced wellbeing. More specifically, this study “Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and wellbeing among 10-15 year olds in the UK,” which is published in BMC Public Health, says that 10-year-old girls in particular may experience harmful effects later in adolescence if they spend too much time on sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

To reach these findings, the researchers analyzed data from the UK Household Panel Study, a widespread national survey that interviewed adolescents as well as their family members every year for seven years from 2009-2015. In total, 9,859 adolescents took this survey and answered questions about how many hours they spent on social media sites each day. The researchers then measured the wellbeing of these kids using a “happiness score,” which came from their answers to questions about how happy they were with a given aspect of life (such as school or family), and a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), which reveals emotional and behavioral issues.

The researchers made a few significant discoveries in regards to social media use: first, adolescent girls used social media more than boys, but both boys and girls used it more frequently as they got older; second, at the age of 13, around half of girls were on social media for over an hour a day, compared with one third of boys; and lastly, by 15, social media use was at its highest among both genders, but 59% of girls were on social media for one or more hours each day, compared to 46% of boys.

When the researchers turned their attention to the happiness scores and SDQs, they found that wellbeing declines throughout adolescence among both boys and girls. However, it was clear that social media played a part in the girls’ decline, while the same was not true for the boys. So what did cause this decline in boys? “Since we did not observe an association between social media use and wellbeing among boys, other factors, such as the amount of time spent gaming, might be associated with the boys’ observed decline in wellbeing,” explained Dr. Cara Booker, lead author of the study.

This study adds to the bulk of social media research that says too much screen time can be harmful to an individual’s wellbeing. Additionally, it suggests that age may play a factor in whether or not it produces these effects. “Our findings suggest that it is important to monitor early interactions with social media, particularly in girls, as this could have an impact on wellbeing later in adolescence and perhaps throughout adulthood,” Dr. Booker concludes.

Sources:
BioMed Central (2018, March 20). Social Media Use at Age 10 May Reduce Adolescent Girls’ Wellbeing. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved March 20, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/social-media-wellbeing-girls-8678/

Booker, C. L., Kelly, Y. J., & Sacker, A. (2018, March 20). Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK. Retrieved March 21, 2018 from https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-018-5220-4

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