Social media is putting teenagers under great pressure. A constant online presence leads to increased risk of anxiety, depression and chronic sleep deprivation.
While the thesis is not new, a new research emphasized how serious the effects of constant presence on social media may be.
467 teenagers were asked about how often they are online, both during the day and during the night. At the same time, researchers looked at their sleeping patterns, the quality of sleep, the onset of depression, self-esteem and anxiety.
Overall, the research findings indicated that the pressure of being on social media websites at any time was related to low sleep quality and lower-self esteem. Particularly teenagers who logged on their social media accounts at night were affected. According to Heather Cleland Woods of the University of Glasgow and lead author of the study, for teenagers who are already under a lot of social pressure and are more predisposed to depression and anxiety, social media is adding fuel to the fire.
Poor sleep quality increases these risks. In 2011 another research validated by the American Psychological Association found that intensive use of social media by teenagers was linked to a higher risk of schizophrenia, alongside depression.
“Since adolescence is a vulnerable period for development of long-term issues, it is essential that we understand how adolescents’ social media use relates to factors like sleep quality and the risk of depression”
the researchers wrote in the new study.
The purpose of the study is certainly not to demonize social media use. We are all connected in a digital world. The issues stem from the unrealistic expectations that intensive use of social media creates. The need to fit in a certain group, to present an ever perfected self-image and to keep up to date with all the trends, changes and ideas that friends are sharing can be exhausting.
In order to diminish the effects of social media use on the mental health of teenagers, researchers recommend a ‘digital sunset’. This implies family control over teenagers’ use of devices to connect to their social media accounts.
Turning off the devices and limiting ‘blue light’ exposure, allowing the time to bring the day to an end without feeling pressured to constantly check emails and social media accounts is the ideal.
Getting sufficient sleep is important to fend off risks of mental health issues, including anxiety, schizophrenia or depression.
The new research was presented during a panel at the annual conference BPS Developmental and Social Psychology Section.
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