Social Media Use and Adolescent Life: What’s the Impact?

This has led to widespread concern about its potential negative impact, both on individuals and the wider society. Yet, there is still considerable uncertainty about how social media use relates to wellbeing.

A team of scientists including psychologists, neuroscientists, and modelers analyzed two UK datasets comprising some 84,000 individuals between the ages of 10 and 80 years old.

These included data that tracks individuals over a while on 17,400 young people aged 10-21 years old. Researchers are from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.

The team looked for a connection between estimated social media use and reported life satisfaction and found key periods of adolescence where social media use was associated with a decrease in life satisfaction 12 months later.

In girls, social media use between the ages of 11 and 13 years was associated with a decrease in life satisfaction one year later, whereas in boys this occurred between the ages of 14 and 15 years.

The differences suggest that sensitivity to social media use might be linked to developmental changes, possible changes in the structure of the brain, or to puberty, which occurs later in boys than in girls. This requires further research.

In both females and males, social media use at the age of 19 years was again associated with a decrease in life satisfaction a year later. At other times, the link between social media use and life satisfaction one year later was not statistically significant.

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at Cambridge and a co-author of the study, said: “It’s not possible to pinpoint the precise processes that underlie this vulnerability. Adolescence is a time of cognitive, biological, and social change, all of which are intertwined, making it difficult to disentangle one factor from another“.

Further complicating the relationship is the fact previously reported and confirmed that not only can social media use negatively impact wellbeing, but that the reverse is also true and lower life satisfaction can drive increased social media use.

While their findings show at a population level that there is a link between social media use and poorer wellbeing, it is not yet possible to predict which individuals are most at risk.

Therefore, researchers call on social media companies and other online platforms to do more to share their data with independent scientists, and, if they are unwilling, for governments to show they are serious about tackling online harm by introducing legislation to compel these companies to be more open.

Source: Medindia

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