A study has suggested that there is “little evidence” of a link between technology use and mental health problems among teenagers.
A study had in January linked heavy social media use to negative well-being and self-esteem among teenagers.
However, a study at the Oxford Internet Institute published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science compared TV, social media, and device use with feelings of depression, suicidal tendencies, and behavioural problems.
The research involved more than 430,000 adolescents — between the ages of 10 and 15 — in the United States and United Kingdom who graded their own feelings using set questions with sliding scale responses. They were asked about the duration of social media or device activity.
It found a small drop in the association between depression, social media, and TV viewing, from 1991 to 2019.
The researchers also discovered that there was a small rise in that between emotional issues and social-media use.
On the relevance of the findings, the researchers noted it is a warning to regulators and lawmakers who focus on commonly held beliefs about the harmful effects of technology on young people’s mental health.
“We couldn’t tell the difference between social media impact and mental health in 2010 and 2019. We’re not saying that fewer happy people use more social media. We’re saying the connection is not getting stronger,” they said.
On his part, Andy Przybylski, a senior author of the study, averred that it is too early to conclude on the relationship between teen tech use and mental health problems.
“As more data accumulates on adolescents’ use of emerging technologies, our knowledge of them and their effects on mental health will become more precise. So it’s too soon to draw firm conclusions about the increasing, or declining, associations between social media and adolescent mental health, and it is certainly way too soon to be making policy or regulation on this basis,” he said.
“We need more transparent and credible collaborations between scientists and technology companies to unlock the answers. The data exists within the tech industry, scientists just need to be able to access it for neutral and independent investigation.”
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