Adolescents’ risk for problems like depression and anxiety increases as the amount of time they spend on social media increases, according to a prospective, longitudinal study in JAMA Psychiatry.
Nearly 7,000 adolescents answered questions about internalising problems (e.g., depression, anxiety) and externalising problems (e.g., bullying, attention issues) when they were aged 12–15 years, reported on their social media use at ages 13–16 years, and then reported on internalising and externalising problems again at ages 14–17 years.
After adjustment for past depression and other confounders, those who spent roughly 3 to 6 hours daily on social media were 60% more likely to later experience internalising problems than those who did not use social media. Adolescents who used social media for more than 6 hours daily had a 78% increased risk. Findings for externalising problems were inconsistent.
As potential mechanisms, the researchers note that greater social media use may result in poor sleep quality and increased risk for cyberbullying.