Pressure to be available on social media may harm teenagers

The need to be constantly available and respond 24/7 on social media accounts can cause depression, anxiety and decrease sleep quality for teenagers says a study presented at a British Psychological Society conference in Manchester.

The researchers, Dr Heather Cleland Woods and Holly Scott of the University of Glasgow, provided questionnaires for 467 teenagers regarding their overall and night-time specific social media use. A further set of tests measured sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and emotional investment in social media which relates to the pressure felt to be available 24/7 and the anxiety around, for example, not responding immediately to texts or posts

Dr Cleland Woods explained: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this. It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and wellbeing, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear”.

Analysis showed that overall and night-time specific social media use along with emotional investment in social media were related to poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem as well as higher anxiety and depression levels.

Lead researcher Dr Cleland Woods said “While overall social media use  impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected. This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.”

The study was presented at the BPS Developmental and Social Psychology Section annual conference, which took place from 9 to 11 September at the Palace Hotel, Manchester