Social Networking Does Not Hurt Teenagers – Study

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More evidence that parental concern over tech and social networking is misplaced in Oxford University study

The amount of time that teenagers spend on social media has a tiny impact on their life satisfaction, a major study from Oxford University has found.

The study involved 12,672 youngsters aged between 10- to 15 years old, and it concluded that “social media use is not, in and of itself, a strong predictor of life satisfaction across the adolescent population.”

Instead it said that social media effects “are nuanced, small at best, reciprocal over time, gender specific, and contingent on analytic methods.”

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The findings come after the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) concluded earlier this year that there was “not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age.”

Indeed, the Oxford University concluded the things that have a greater impact on the lives of youngsters are family, friends and school life.

Parents have long been concerned at the amount of time that children are glued to their screens. In February 2018 the additive nature of technology was highlighted in a campaign called ‘The Truth about Tech’.

The campaign was the brainchild of two former employees of Facebook and Google. It urged tech companies to rethink and redesign addictive and intrusive tech tools.

Firms such as Apple have responded with measures aimed at helping users manage the time they and their children spend using mobile devices.

Proponents of this argument believe that tech addition does cause harm including attention and cognition disorders; depression, loneliness, stress, and anxiety; suicidal ideation; loss of productivity; hindrance of children’s development; lack of critical-thinking skills; and a misconstrued sense of culture.

But this latest study from Oxford University, published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences‘, should at least help ease these concerns.

The study sought to answer the question of whether teenagers who use social media more than average have lower life satisfaction, or whether adolescents with lower life satisfaction use more social media.

Professor Andy Przybylski, co-author of the research was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying that, “99.75 percent of a young person’s life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media”.

Talk to them

Professor Przybylski said the research added to evidence that it is not how much time children spend on social media that is important when it comes to wellbeing. He reportedly said that the focus on time “is like somebody crying wolf”.

Instead, he said, there are other, more nuanced, questions that should be asked.

“It is entirely possible that there are other, specific, aspects of social media that are really not good for kids … or that there are some young people who are more or less vulnerable because of some background factor,” he reportedly said.

But essentially the study makes clear that parents should stop worrying about how long their youngsters spend on social media platforms, and instead talk to them about their experiences.

“Just as things went awry offline, things will also go awry online, and it is really important for that communication channel to be open,” Amy Orben, first author of the research, also from Oxford University was quoted as saying.

One of the other noteworthy findings in the study was that it found more effects of time spent on social media in girls, but the results were tiny and no larger than effects found in boys.

Less than half of these effects were statistically significant, the researchers said.

Despite this guidance, the amount of time children are spending using tech will no doubt still cause parents worry.

In 2018 Apple CEO Tim Cook urged parents to stop children using social media. He has banned his nephew for example from using social networks.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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