Children who spend more time on social media suffering from mental health problems, according to national figures
Time spent on social media has been linked to poor mental health in children according to a new report from the Office of National Statistics.
The study found that children aged 10-15 who spend three hours or more on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram on a school night are twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health.
Social media was hugely popular within the demographic with 56 per cent of respondents spending up to three hours online every evening and within that group girls were found to spend more than twice the amount of time on the sites compared to boys.
The report, titled “Insights into Children’s Mental Health and Well-being”, measured the symptoms of mental ill health in young people by asking children to identify problems they may have on a scorecard. It concluded that that there was a “clear association” between more time spent on social media and children reporting difficulties associated with mental health problems.
Overall the findings showed that one in eight children aged 10 to 15 reported symptoms of mental ill health when asked to comment on their own state of mind.
Hayley Van Zwanenberg, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Priory Woodbourne Hospital in Birmingham, told the Times that children’s immersion in a “virtual world” was misconstruing how they perceived themselves in reality.
Van Zwanenberg said that one of the main consequences of children being so invested in social media was that they were likely to interpret the inaccurate information on the sites as fact which subsequently had a detrimental effect on their mental health.
She also said that by spending so much time on social media children were suffering a “reduction in reciprocal social interaction with peers away from the internet. Children’s social skills and abilities to make small talk and listen and develop empathy are affected”.
Parents must “put in place sensible boundaries”, Van Zwanenberg concluded.
Bullying, body image and happiness with school were some of the other factors analysed separately in the study. The growing prevalence of social media and the increase in children using them is likely to affect the other factors too given that they will exists within social media. In response to an increase in bullying on social media Facebook introduced a bulling prevention centre designed to help victims and provide information on prevention strategies.