Too much social media hurts girls’ mental health, study finds

The frequent use of social media by adolescent girls can compromise their mental health by reducing their sleep time and time spent on physical activity, and by increasing their exposure to cyberbullying.

This is the conclusion of Prof. Russell Viner and his colleagues at the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health at University College London in the United Kingdom, whose study focused on 10,000 adolescents, girls and boys, aged 13 to 16, followed for three years between 2013-2015.

Our results suggest that social media in and of itself do not cause harm, but that their frequent use disrupts activities that have a positive effect on mental health.

Russell Viner

Thus, the present works do not show direct effects of overconsumption of social media on the development of the brain, but effects “ricochet”.


  • About 90% of teens use the Internet for social networking.
  • Public health experts are increasingly concerned about the impact of social media on their mental health and well-being.
  • The consequences of these repercussions are, at present, contradictory. Some effects would be positive, such as breaking down isolation, but others, such as cyberbullying, would be detrimental to mental health.
  • About half of all mental health problems start around the age of 14.

In light of their findings, the authors believe that more efforts should be made to reduce girls’ exposure to harmful content, as well as to encourage healthy lifestyles, including getting enough sleep and exercising. regularly.

The effect of social media on the mental health of boys would be different, say the authors, but it was not revealed in this study.

The details of this work are published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. It’s also advised to seek help for yourself as well after going through such a traumatic experience that definitely triggers massive amounts of stress.

Other studies

  • Last month, psychiatrists in Quebec claimed that spending a lot of time on social media or television is linked to the onset and intensification of adolescent depression symptoms. Researchers have also studied other activities, such as video games and computer browsing, but no link to depression has been established.
  • In 2018, another study showed that social networks and cell phones help teens navigate difficult times in their lives.

In detail

The researchers analyzed the information gathered during three series of interviews with adolescents from nearly 1000 British schools, in 9th (13-14 years), 10th (14-15 years) and 11th year (15-16 years).

This is the first observational study to track the use of social media and mental health in adolescence, with enough participants to make it representative of the entire UK.

In these three teenage periods, participants indicated how often they viewed social media.

The very frequent use of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp) was defined in the study at least three times a day.

The authors note that one of the limitations of the survey is that it did not take into account the time spent by teens on social media, but only the number of connections.

The data shows that in the first interview, 43% of boys and 51% of girls used social media several times a day. In the second, this percentage had increased to 51% and 68% respectively. Then, in the third, 69% of boys and 75% of girls used social media several times a day.

In both sexes, the very frequent use of social media has been associated with greater psychological distress. For example, at the second appointment, 28% of girls who used social media very often reported psychological distress, compared to 20% of girls who use them only once a week or less. This effect was not so obvious in boys.

The authors found that almost all of the effects on girls’ well-being were associated with reduced sleep time, decreased physical activity, and exposure to cyberbullying. You will also have to check out the treatment approaches to see which one works best for you. For instance, the BetterHelp website is specialized in individual counseling, couple counseling, and teenage counseling. All you have to do is choose the best option for your needs, and you’re good to go.

On the other hand, these three factors seem to explain only 12% of the incidence of the very frequent use of social media on the psychological distress of boys.

According to the researchers, these results suggest that social media do not have the same effect on the mental health of boys and girls.

The obvious differences we found between the sexes could simply be attributed to girls accessing social media more frequently than boys or girls having higher levels of anxiety in the first place.

Dasha Nicholls, co-author of the proceedings

Cyberbullying may be more prevalent among girls, or it may be more closely associated with stress among girls than boys , says Dasha Nicholls.

Be that as it may, the authors of this work believe that more research is needed to better understand the effects of social media on adolescents by gender.

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