Frequent Social Media Use in Teens May Indicate Mental Health Concerns

Frequent Social Media Use in Teens May Indicate Mental Health Concerns
Frequent Social Media Use in Teens May Indicate Mental Health Concerns

(HealthDay News) — Teens who frequently use social media are more likely to say they struggle with mental health concerns that are not being addressed, according to research published in the July issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga, MD, and Rosamund Lewis, MD, from the department of epidemiology at Ottawa Public Health, analyzed part of a youth health survey that tallied responses from 753 students who were enrolled in grades seven through 12 (average age of 14) in Ottawa. Just over a quarter said they accessed social networking sites for more than two hours every day, while about a fifth said they never did or did so rarely. More than half (54%) said they surfed such sites, but for two hours or less daily.

The study authors determined that teens who accessed online sites two or more hours per day were more likely to describe their mental health as "poor" and less likely to have their own perceived needs for mental health support addressed. High use of social networking was also linked to a higher risk for psychological distress and a higher likelihood for having had suicidal thoughts.

Sampasa-Kanyinga told HealthDay that some of the problem might lie in the anonymity of social networks, which boosts the risk for cyberbullying. Such sites also encourage teens to compare themselves to others, she noted, while making alcohol and cigarettes more appealing and accessible. She advises parents to limit their child's social networking time to under two hours a day, while remaining alert for mood changes, dietary shifts, sleep issues, and unusual behavior.

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