While the effects of social media on our health have been argued by experts in the past, a new study claims that it is the lack of sleep and psychological stress caused by using social media which affects kids more than the actual apps.
Published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, the study draws its observations from 12,000 teenagers, between ages 13-16, who were interviewed. About 51 per cent of girls and 43 per cent of boys were found to use social media more than thrice a day in Grade 9, which increased to 75 per cent of girls and 69 per cent of boys by Grade 11.
The kids who checked social media sites more than thrice a day had poorer mental health and greater psychological distress. The girls checking social media reported to be less happy and more anxious while boys did not relate to it. The reasons ranged from disrupted sleep, cyberbullying and to some extent, lack of exercise. In boys, however, the effect of these factors was found to be comparatively less.
“While we obsess a lot about social media, how much do we obsess about how much our young people sleep? Not very much – but it is a more important factor, actually, in determining their mental health,” professor Russell Viner, a co-author of the study from University College London, Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, was quoted as saying.
Dr Dasha Nicholls, Imperial College London, added, “It’s not the amount of social media, per se, it’s when it displaces real-life contact and activities. It’s about getting a balance.”
Kids need adequate amount of quality sleep to regularise body functions and repair any damage. Chronic insomnia can increase the risk of behavioural problems, mental heath issues and even obesity. So, parents need to ensure their child sleeps well by limiting screen time and following a proper bedtime routine.