Researchers Believe Social Media Disrupting Positive Activities

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 10:28

Researchers have believed that the issue of social media may be more complex than experts think.

Based on the recent study, published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, researchers found that social media may harm girls' mental health by increasing their exposure to bullying and reducing their sleep and physical exercise, CNN reports.

"Our results suggest that social media itself doesn't cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyber-bullying," study co-author Russell Viner of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health said in a statement.

In other words: Social media itself might not be to blame for mental health issues; rather, it takes away from girls' sleep quality and exercise while exposing users to cyberbullying, and that is what leads to lower well-being and problems with mental health.

For boys, the impact on their mental health seems to be due to other reasons, so further research is needed, the authors said.

The research was conducted by interviewing teenagers once a year from 2013 to 2015. They would report the frequency that they checked or used social media, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat. More than three times daily was considered "very frequent."

But nearly 60% of the impact on psychological distress in girls could be accounted for by low sleep quality and greater exposure to cyberbullying, with decreased physical activity playing a lesser role. But for boys, those factors explained only 12% of the effects of very frequent social media use on psychological distress.

It's an important distinction, says Ann DeSmet, a professor at Ghent University in Belgium who was not involved in the research, "If the displacement of healthy lifestyles and cyberbullying can be attenuated, the positive effects of social media use, such as encouraging social interactions, can be more endorsed," she said in a statement.

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