Social media could affect the well-being of girls and boys at totally different ages, per analysis that raises the prospect of windows of vulnerability in adolescence.
Psychologists found that girls who time on social media between the ages of eleven and thirteen were less happy with their lives one year later, with the same trend playing out in boys aged fourteen to fifteen.
The researchers found no link between social media and well-being at other ages, except at nineteen years old, when a drop again followed higher usage in satisfaction for both sexes.
“We realize there are certain ages, which differ between the sexes when social media more sustainably predicts life satisfaction,” said Dr. Amy Orben, an experimental psychologist and first author of the study at the University of Cambridge.
The researchers initiated the work in the hope of shedding light on whether the rise of social media has played a role in increasing levels of mental health in youngsters. According to the charity Young Minds, the number of children aged 5 to 16 with suspected mental health problems rose by 50% between 2017 and 2021, suggesting that 5 youngsters in each room are currently affected.
Orben and her colleagues analyzed information from 84,000 UK people aged between ten and eighty years old who enrolled in either the Millennium Cohort study or the Understanding Society study. This captured info on people’s mental health and well-being and their reportable use of social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
The researchers found a two-way effect, wherever at explicit ages, social media use was linked to a drop in life satisfaction a year on, whereas low life satisfaction was linked to greater social media use the year after. The findings are averages and can’t be used to predict how any one particular individual may respond to social media.