Pressure to be online at all times is causing stress and sleep loss for modern teens, says new research. Reported yesterday on Medical News Today, researchers have found that social media usage tends to jeopardize sleep patterns and may be associated with an array of mental health problems, including anxiety, stress, and depression.
With 467 teenage participants between the ages of 11 and 17, researchers Dr. Heather Cleland Woods and Holly Scott from the University of Glasgow issued a questionnaire to the school. Questions covered self-esteem, sleep quality, depression, and anxiety, asking the teens about their emotional investment in social media and how many hours a day they typically use it. The participants who had a high emotional investment in social media like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube were found to have worse sleep patterns, lower self-esteem, and higher rates of anxiety and depression than the teens who weren’t as engaged with the internet. These troubling associations were found to be even stronger for teenagers who used social media in the evening.
“While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected. This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.” explains Dr. Woods.
Furthermore, Dr. Woods notes that due to the pressure to be ‘tuned in’ as much as possible, not responding to posts or text messages quickly enough may actually increase anxiety. This, coupled with excessive amounts of usage long into the evening, leads to even more anxiety and depression from the lack of sleep.
This may be a rather small study, but it confirms the thoughts of many researchers throughout the past decade – that indulging too much in social media is harmful to a developing mind. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a reason to abandon the internet entirely, but instead as a testament to the importance of moderation. There’s not really anything wrong with spending a bit of time on your favourite website, and while many enthusiasts love to push the ‘social media is anything but social‘ idea these days, Facebook and the like can be a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family. Again, it all comes down to moderating your usage and trying to put more time towards things like exercise and face-to-face interactions.
To better understand the connection between mental well-being and social media habits, the team says that more research is needed.