Teens who spend more than 3 hours a day on social media are at higher risk for mental health issues

Teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media are at a higher risk for mental health issues, a new study says.  

Researchers found that teens who spent hours scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were more likely to report feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.

These teens were also more likely be more aggressive, bully others or exhibit anti-social behavior. 

The team, from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, says that although the findings are concerning, they suggest doctors may be able to catch early warning signs of mental health issues by tracking how much time high schoolers are spending online.

A new study, from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, has found that teens who spent three hours more on social media are more likely to report feeling anxious and depressed (file image)

A new study, from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, has found that teens who spent three hours more on social media are more likely to report feeling anxious and depressed (file image) 

Social media has become a daily part of life for most teenagers in the US. 

A 2018 Pew Research Center report found 97 percent of teens reported using at least one of the seven most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube. 

Moreover, it’s very easy for teens to access these platforms. 

The same report found that 95 percent have a smartphone or access to one, and 45 percent said they were online ‘almost constantly’. 

And while social media has been praised for helping youth gain technical skills and form relationships, it’s also been critiqued for increasing exposure to bullying and reducing the amount of time teens spend sleeping and exercising. 

For the new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, the team looked at about 6,600 American teens between ages 12 and 15. 

Teens were asked if they had a social media account and how much time they spent on their account during a typical day: up to 30 minutes; more than 30 minutes; up to three hours; more than three hours; up to six hours; and more than six hours. 

Mental health issues were assessed using a screener called GAIN-SS that identifies behavioral health disorders and the severity of symptoms 

Results show that those who used social media for more than three hours per day were more likely to report ‘internalizing problems’ such as feeling anxious, depressed or lonely compared to teens that didn’t use social media.

They were also more likely to couple this with ‘externalizing behaviors’ such as aggression, bullying and anti-social behavior.

‘Future research should determine whether setting limits on daily social media use, increasing media literacy, and redesigning social media platforms are effective means of reducing the burden of mental health problems in this population,’ the authors wrote.

This is not the first study to reach similar findings.

A study conducted earlier this year by the University of Montreal in Canada found that the more time teenagers spend looking at screens, the more depressed they become

And another study published last month found that teen girls who often use social media sites report higher rates of mental stress and lower levels of well-being.  

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