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New Study Highlights the Potentially Damaging Effects of Social Media, Especially Among Girls


Much has been said of the potential downsides of social media use, with various studies linking excessive screen time to a myriad of issues ranging from drops in self-esteem to full-blown depression. This is obviously an important subject to explore, and one that carries substantial ramifications for generations both current and yet-to-come. As such, it is always reassuring to see new studies delving into the issue.

On such new study, recently conducted by a team from the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Essex University and University College London (UCL), aimed to explore just how social media use may affect the psychological wellbeing of its users, and how factors such as gender may exacerbate or lessen this problem.

The researchers analysed the happiness levels of nearly 10,000 girls and boys between the ages of 10 and 15, ultimately concluding that girls who spent more than an hour a day on social media from the age of 10 were more likely to suffer problems than their male counterparts.

Societal pressure seems to be the primary cause, as girls have long been subject to increased scrutiny regarding the way they look and behave. The researchers suggest that boys appear less affected by the damaging effects of social media simply because - generally speaking - they are less inclined to compare themselves to others, and place lesser importance on the number of likes they may receive on a Facebook or Instagram post. Other issues such as cyber-bullying and a lack of sleep also play a role, the researchers added.

Specifically, the study found that 10% of 10-year-old girls spent one to three hours a day on social media, compared to 7% of boys, with this figure rising to 43% and 31% respectively by the age of 15. Among both boys and girls happiness levels fell during this time, but the reduction was greater for girls. Emotional wellbeing among the older female participants was associated with how much they interacted on social media from the age of 10, which was simply not the case for males, the team concluded.

In line with their results, which are among the first to clearly demonstrate a link between gender, social media use and emotional impact, the researchers are now calling for increased regulation in the industry, suggesting time limits for children and health warnings like those seen on tobacco products.

Dr Cara Booker of the ISER said of the results, “Young people need access to the internet for homework, for watching TV and to keep in touch with their friends, but a body of evidence is emerging to show that substantial amounts of time spent on social media on school days is far from beneficial, especially for girls.”

Professor Yvonne Kelly, Professor of Lifecourse Epidemiology at UCL, added, “For girls it can be about how many ‘likes’ they are getting. That may be less important for young boys. Another way could be through encountering cyber-bullying. The more time spent online, the more likely they are to come across negative stuff. 

“The third is the impact on sleep. If you have your phone by your bed and it buzzes, few of us have the willpower to resist getting that little kick that so-and-so has got back to me.”

For more information regarding the study and its results, please visit the UCL Website.



Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working as Editor of Social Songbird, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @Songbird_Sam

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New Study Highlights the Potentially Damaging Effects of Social Media, Especially Among Girls Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Friday, April 27, 2018 Rating: 5
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