Teenage girls who spend a lot of time on social media are twice more likely to develop depressive symptoms compared to boys of the same age, a study has found.
In a study analysing data from nearly 11,000 young people in Britain, researchers found that 14-year-old girls were heavier users of social media, with two-fifths of them using it for more than three hours a day, compared with a fifth of boys.
Researchers found the most important routes from social media use to depressive symptoms were shown to be via poor sleep and online harassment. Social media use was proportionately related to less sleep, taking more time to fall asleep and more disruptions during sleep. In turn, depressive symptom scores were higher for girls and boys experiencing poor sleep. Time spent on social media was related to involvement with online harassment which had direct and indirect associations (via sleep, poor body image and self-esteem) with depressive symptom scores.
She said families may also “want to reflect on when and where it’s ok to be on social media” and consider restrictions on teenagers having mobile devices in their bedrooms.
The study, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), was published online in the journal EClinicalMedicine on Friday.