De­pres­sion in teen girls linked to so­cial me­dia

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Uk&world News - MAR­TYN LANDI Press As­so­ci­a­tion

DE­PRES­SION linked to so­cial me­dia is al­most twice as high among teenage girls com­pared to boys, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don.

Re­searchers found the greater amount of time girls spend on so­cial me­dia at age 14, as well as ex­po­sure to on­line bul­ly­ing and lack of sleep, were key fac­tors in their mood.

The re­search, pub­lished in EClin­i­calMedicine, sug­gests that 14-yearold girls were heav­ier users of so­cial me­dia, with two-fifths us­ing it for more than three hours a day, com­pared to one-fifth of boys.

The study is the first of its kind and is based on data from al­most 11,000 14-year-olds who are tak­ing part in the Mil­len­nium Co­hort Study, a large-scale re­search pro­ject look­ing into the lives of chil­dren.

The find­ings come as new of­fi­cial guid­ance from the Royal Col­lege of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health sug­gests par­ents should avoid let­ting their chil­dren use mo­bile phones, tablets or com­put­ers an hour be­fore bed­time and agree screen time lim­its.

Pro­fes­sor Yvonne Kelly, from the UCL In­sti­tute of Epi­demi­ol­ogy and Health Care, said: “The link be­tween so­cial me­dia use and de­pres­sive symp­toms was stronger for girls com­pared with boys. For girls, greater daily hours of so­cial me­dia use cor­re­sponded to a step­wise in­crease in de­pres­sive symp­toms.

“For boys, higher de­pres­sive symp­tom scores were seen among those re­port­ing three or more hours of daily so­cial me­dia use.”

Girls were also more likely to have ex­pe­ri­ence of on­line ha­rass­ment or cy­ber bul­ly­ing and get less qual­ity sleep be­cause of ex­tra time spent on­line.

Both fac­tors can trig­ger de­pres­sive symp­toms, the re­searchers said.

The study sug­gests that 40 per cent of girls had ex­pe­ri­enced on­line ha­rass­ment or bul­ly­ing com­pared to 25 per cent of boys, while 40 per cent of girls re­ported their sleep of­ten be­ing dis­rupted com­pared to 28 per cent of boys.

“These find­ings are highly rel­e­vant to cur­rent pol­icy de­vel­op­ment on guide­lines for the safe use of so­cial me­dia and calls on in­dus­try to more tightly reg­u­late hours of so­cial me­dia use for young peo­ple,” Pro­fes­sor Kelly said. “Clin­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional and fam­ily set­tings are all po­ten­tial points of con­tact where young peo­ple could be en­cour­aged and sup- ported to re­flect not only on their so­cial me­dia use, but also other as­pects of their lives in­clud­ing on­line ex­pe­ri­ences and their sleep pat­terns. At home, fam­i­lies may want to re­flect on when and where it’s OK to be on so­cial me­dia and agree lim­its for time spent on­line. Cur­fews for use and the overnight re­moval of mo­bile de­vices from bed­rooms might also be some­thing to con­sider.”

Shirley Cramer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Royal So­ci­ety of Pub­lic Health, said more ac­tion was needed from gov­ern­ment to un­der­stand the im­pact of so­cial me­dia.

“This im­por­tant new re­search con­firms that we need to in­crease aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing among par­ents, schools and pol­icy mak­ers about the role of so­cial me­dia in our young peo­ple’s men­tal health, par­tic­u­larly tak­ing into ac­count the in­creased risks for girls,” she said.

So­cial me­dia and in­ter­net com­pa­nies have been crit­i­cised for not ac­knowl­edg­ing the im­pact their ser­vices have on the lives of young peo­ple. How­ever, in the past 12 months, firms in­clud­ing Ap­ple and Google have in­tro­duced new well­be­ing tools that en­able users to track and limit their usage.

Par­ents should avoid let­ting their chil­dren use mo­bile phones, tablets or com­put­ers an hour be­fore bed­time and agree screen time lim­its, ac­cord­ing to new of­fi­cial guid­ance

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