Researchers who conducted a 3,826-student study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics are advising parents to regulate the amount of time their adolescents spend watching television and using social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The authors of the study, Drs. Elroy Boers, Mohammad H. Afzali, Nicola Newton and Patricia Conrad, found that for every additional hour each day students spend using social media or watching a TV screen, the severity of depressive symptoms they endure increases.
However, the same correlation was not found between depression and video games.
Between the years 2012 and 2018, participating students were asked to complete surveys in which they measured the amount of time per day they devoted to computers, the internet and television, as well as their levels of depression on a four-point scale.
Internet accessibility through smartphones no doubt plays a major role in the growing amount of time people spend online. A study from market research company eMarketer published last month found that even adults are using their mobile devices at a higher rate than ever before.
With adolescents being introduced to online communities at earlier ages than previous generations, the need to compare oneself to others is being normalized and, according to the study, wreaking havoc on minors’ self-esteem; it can also enhance other depressive symptoms.
“Based on the upward social comparison, it may be that repeated exposure to idealized images lowers adolescents’ self-esteem, triggers depression, and enhances depression over time,” the study reports. “Furthermore, heavier users of social media with depression appear to be more negatively affected by their time spent on social media, potentially by the nature of information that they select.”
It’s worth acknowledging the study states that “depression is a common mental health disorder at all ages.”
The study also notes there is a need for more related longitudinal studies in order to develop a more firm understanding of the connection between depression and watching television or using social media.