The 24/7 nature of social media could be doing more harm than we thought.
Notifications constantly light up our phones and computers, making anyone feel like they constantly have to be "on" and responding to friends' online messages, comments, and questions. But now new research from the University of Glasglow, being presented at the British Psychological Society conference, shows that teenagers who feel pressure to spend all day on social media end up being depressed, anxious, and experience lower sleep-quality.
The worst time to engage with social media was at night—of a survey of 467 teens, those who surfed their accounts while in bed had lower self-esteem, higher anxiety and depression, and poor sleep levels. Given that more teens than ever are forging and maintaining friendships via the Internet, they almost need social media to remain, well, social. The issue, say the researchers, is when the anxiety kicks in for not responding immediately to every post.
"While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected," lead author Dr. Cleland Woods said in a statement. "This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off."
This isn't the first time research has pointed to negative effects of social media on adolescents. An earlier study from American University showed that scrolling through friends' Facebook photos could have a negative effect on teen girls' body images. The American Psychological Association has also suggested that social media doesn't make teens any healthier—teens become prone to anxiety and have trouble succeeding in school. But, since there's a slim chance we can get teenagers to completely cut themselves off from Facebook and Instagram, the best bet is to make sure they're powering down at night, and staying present during times that matter—like math class and family dinner.
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