For years, experts have been putting the blame on excessive phone use as a possible factor in mental health problems such as depression. The results from a study by researchers at the Sainte-Justine Hospital of Montreal published on Monday show the link between social media and TV viewing and increased symptoms of depression in teenagers.
Leader of the research team Patricia Conrod issued a press release on Monday where she said: “Our research reveals that increased time spent using some forms of digital media in a given year predicts depressive symptoms within that same year.”
4,000 Canadian teenagers from the age of 12 to 16 years were followed for four years in the extensive research. Every high school year, the teens self-reported on the amount of time spent with digital screens. Four types of on-screen activities are specified as they reported: social media, television, computer and video gaming.
The research found that when the teens report an increase in social media and television use their symptoms of depression also increased. Interestingly, there was no link found between video gaming an increased depression.
So how can we use this information to protect our teenagers from the harm of social media and television? Conrad suggested, “Early identification of vulnerability to depression gives clinicians and parents a large window of time in which to intervene. Regulating teens’ social media and television use might be one way to help young people manage depressed mood or vulnerability to depressive symptoms.”
Conrad believes that further research is necessary to identify if social media exposure is the direct culprit for elevated rates of depression amongst the youth.
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.