“For all we hear about an escalation in mental health problems in adolescence, there is no persuasive evidence that the internet is to blame. My colleagues and I recently conducted a systematic review of the evidence and found only a weak correlation between teenagersu2019 use of social media and depression.
After its launch in 2004, the social networking website Facebook rapidly expanded to global coverage. Since the advent of smartphones, instant messaging sites such as WhatsApp have become the most popular means of communication for younger people, who spend much of their lives fixated on digital devices, oblivious to everything around them. Some experts believe that this immersion in cyberspace has negative psychological and social effects, and news reports and opinion pieces in newspapers often portray the internet as a danger to the young.
We examined research measuring social media use and depression in young people up to 18 years of age. Eleven studies, with a total of 12,646 participants, were included. Overall, we found a small but statistically significant relationship between online social interaction and depressed mood.
A weakness of the reviewed studies was reliance on the participantsu2019 self-reporting of internet use. Although symptoms were measured by validated psychological questio
aires, depression was not formally diagnosed in any of the studies. More fundamentally, the studies could not determine whether the mood problem was cause or effect. Data from some studies indicated that psychologically vulnerable young people are more likely to turn to the internet for social support. So depression may be a contributory factor rather than a consequence of social media use.
ection , superficial exchange and a perpetual quest for u2018likesu2019 do not nurture deep thinking, creativity and empathy ( Shutterstock )
The results of our review neither negate the concerns of sociologists, psychologists and neuroscientists on the impact of the internet on social and cognitive development, nor do we disregard problematic use. Previous research has found that young people who display impulsive and addictive behaviour are more likely to share sexual images of themselves and are at greater risk of being bullied online.
Health news in pictures
19 show all Health news in pictures”