Social media use may actually not cause depression in kids, young adults

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New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) Parents, please take note. Increased use of Instagram, YouTube and Facebook may not lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression in kids in the precarious 10-16 year age group, new research has claimed. 

“The prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased. As has the use of social media. Many people, therefore, believe that there has to be a correlation,” said Silje Steinsbekk, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) department of psychology.

But that is not the case if we are to believe the results of the study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

“Young people’s use of social media is a topic that often creates strong emotions, and there is a lot of concern among both parents and professionals,” Steinsbekk said.

During the study, researchers followed 800 children in Trondheim, a city in Norway, over a six-year period in order to look for correlations between the use of social media and the development of symptoms of mental illness.

They collected data every other year, from the year in which the children were ten years old until they turned 16 years of age.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression were identified through diagnostic interviews with both the children and their parents.

The outcome was the same for both boys and girls. The results were the same regardless of whether the children published posts and pictures via their own social media pages or whether they liked and commented on posts published by others.

“By following the same subjects over a number of years, recording symptoms of mental illness through in-depth interviews, and examining various types of social media use, our study has enabled us to take a more detailed look and provide a more nuanced picture of the correlations,” Steinsbekk said.

Previous studies conducted by the same research group show that around five per cent of young people in Norway experience depression. The prevalence is lower in children.

One in 10 children meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder at least once during the period between the ages of four and 14 years.

Over the coming years, researchers will also examine how different experiences on social media, such as cyberbullying and posting nude pictures, affect young people’s development and functioning in society.

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