Social Media Has Minimal Impact On Teenagers’ Lives, Study Finds

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A research team at the University of Oxford revealed, through a major study across the United Kingdom, that social media has a limited effect in teenagers’ lives.

Researchers studied about 12,000 adolescents in the country and determined that family, friends, and school life had a much greater impact on their well-being than social media use, which in turn had a “tiny” effect on their overall life satisfaction, as reported by BBC News.

The Oxford team claims the study, which took place between 2009 and 2017 and was published in the journal PNAS, is more in-depth than previous ones. They also urged companies to release more data on how people use online platforms for a better understanding into the impact of technology on young people. The study’s main goal was to determine whether or not teens who use social media more than average have a lower life satisfaction, or if adolescents with a lower life satisfaction use more social media than average.

According to Professor Andrew Przybylski and Amy Orben, from the Oxford Internet Institute, past studies regarding the links between technology and youngsters’ mental health have often been contradictory or based on limited evidence, failing to paint the full picture.

However, the new research showed that the relationship between social media use and life satisfaction is often “trivial,” accounting for less than 1 percent of a teen’s well-being. They also concluded that the effect of social media was “not a one-way street,” and that 99.75 percent of a person’s life satisfaction “has nothing to do with their use of social media.”

Teenagers use their mobile phones.
Featured image credit: ROBIN WORRALLUnsplash

Przybylski’s team asked thousands of young people aged from 10 to 15 to specify how long they spent on social media during a normal school day, and also had them rate how happy they were with different aspects of their life. They found that less of the effects social media had on adolescents were statistically significant.

“Parents shouldn’t worry about time on social media – thinking about it that way is wrong. We are fixated on time – but we need to retire this notion of screen time. The results are not showing evidence for great concern,” Przybylski stated.

The team of researchers concluded that the priority now should be to identify young people who are at greater risk from specific effects of social media, but also to crack down on other factors that may be having a negative impact on their well-being. They are meant to hold talks with social media companies to discuss how they can work together to understand better how people use apps, and not just the amount of time spent on them.