herald

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Social media has 'trivial' effect on teen well-being

Screen time ‘is not the issue’
Screen time ‘is not the issue’

The effects of social media on the life satisfaction of teenagers are "trivial" in size, a new study suggests.

Spending more time on sites such as Facebook has a limited impact on how content adolescents are with their lives, according to the research.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, from the University of Oxford, said the findings suggest society should focus on whether particular aspects of online behaviour are harmful, instead of focusing on screen time.

"Social media effects are nuanced, reciprocal, possibly contingent on gender, and arguably trivial in size," the authors wrote.

Previous research was largely based on correlations, making it difficult to determine if social media use led to changes in life satisfaction or vice versa.

The new study analysed data on 12,000 British teenagers.

Lower life satisfaction led to an increase in social media use and social media use led to lower life satisfaction, but the trends were "modest", the authors said.

These effects were more evident in females than males.

Lacklustre

"With most current debate based on lacklustre evidence, this study represents an important step toward mapping the effects of technology on well-being," said Prof Przybylski.

He described screen time as "statistically noisy nonsense".

"Time shouldn't be the thing that parents are worrying about," he said.

Dr Max Davie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "This paper suggests that social media has limited effect on teenage life satisfaction.

"However, there are still issues around screen time more generally, and a risk that screen time may interfere with other important activities like sleep, exercise and spending time with family or friends."

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