The need to be constantly available and respond 24/7 on social media accounts can cause depression, anxiety, and poor sleep quality for teenagers, says a new study.
Researchers Dr. Heather Cleland Woods and Holly Scott of the University of Glasgow provided questionnaires to 467 teenagers regarding their overall and nighttime-specific social media use. Another round of tests measured sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and emotional investment in social media, with questions about the pressure felt to be available 24/7 and the anxiety associated with not being able respond to texts or posts immediately.
Dr. 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 well-being, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear.
Analysis of the data showed that overall and nighttime-specific social media use, along with emotional investment, were related to poorer sleep quality and lower self-esteem as well as higher anxiety and depression levels.
Dr. Woods said of the findings:
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.
Many teens have irregular sleep patterns. They typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.
Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. But most do not get enough sleep: one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
And, previous studies have shown that the use and prevalence of cell phones may provoke feelings of anxiety, social anxiety, and emotional insecurity. Knowing that so many of us are connected or within reach at all times sounds like it would make us feel more secure, but it actually creates new expectations, and teenagers are no exception. In fact, younger smartphone users tend to experience a wider range of these emotions than older users, and are more likely to report experiencing negative emotions including “distracted” and “angry.”
Also, differences in communication styles and how we make contact can create a whole new set of stressors, especially for those with social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or depression.
Experts warn that even the presence of smartphones and wireless mobile devices make people anxious and distracted – even devices owned by others.
Gradually reducing time spent on devices can help and is far less stressful than trying to quit use entirely. Asking your teenager to try 30 minute smartphone breaks, and increase the time away in increments, may help reduce anxiety associated with the devices and social media expectations.