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Social media affects teenagers in a "tiny" way, study finds

Michael Somerville

The effect of social media causing UK teenagers to be depressed and anxious is limited and most likely to be “tiny", according to a study by the University of Oxford.

The study, which tracked the behavior of 12,000 UK teenagers over a period of eight years, argued that people “need to retire this notion of screen time” because “the results are not showing evidence for great concern”.

The published study appeared in the journal PNAS and did find that lower life satisfaction led to an increase in social media use and social media use led to a lower life satisfaction, but these developments were "modest."

Professor Andrew Przybylski , director of research at the institute said the links between social media use and a teenagers life satisfaction was "trivial" and that it accounted for less than 1 per cent of wellbeing.

The effect of smartphones on young people’s health has debated fiercely for years now, with some researchers such as San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge finding that smartphones could be causing a lack of sleep and depression.

The Oxford Study asked teenagers how much time they spent on social media on a normal school day and how satisfied they were with various aspects of their life.

Dr Max David, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said the paper suggests social media has a limited effect on teenage life satisfaction.

He said, "We recommend that families follow our guidance published earlier this year and continue to avoid screen use for one hour before bed, since there are other reasons beside mental health for children to need a good night's sleep."

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