Only one hour on social media a day is enough to reduce the happiness of children, with the effect worse for girls than boys, a new study suggests.
Researchers found the longer children spend chatting on Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, the less happy they feel about a number of aspects of their lives.
These include school work, their school in general, their appearance, their family and their life overall.
Girls were more adversely affected, with a larger impact on how they felt about their appearance and their school life.
The findings support concerns that girls are being made to feel miserable by too much criticism of their appearance on photo-sharing websites.
Experts have also warned that teenagers are made to feel inadequate by viewing photographs of their peers having fun without them online.
However, the latest research shows there were some benefits to both sexes, as children who invest time in interacting with others online did feel happier about their friendships.
The study says: ‘The advent of online social networking is one aspect of childhood that has changed dramatically in the past decade, and is causing concern among policy-makers and other bodies responsible for safeguarding children.
‘There are concerns that social media use is associated with low self-esteem and common mental health problems.
‘This research suggests that children’s time spent chatting online should be regulated in order to encourage greater life satisfaction.’
The study, presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference in Bristol this week, was carried out by economists at the University of Sheffield.
Spending just one hour a day on social networks reduces the probability of being completely happy with life overall by approximately 14 percentage points.
That is three times as large as the estimated adverse effect on children’s wellbeing of being in a single parent household – 4.6 percentage points.
The researchers said they found evidence that reduced happiness may be due to making social comparisons with others or cyberbullying.
The new study uses information from a large representative sample of around 4,000 10 to 15 year olds from the UK Household Longitudinal Study.
Around 92 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds use online social networks and while most sites stipulate a minimum user age of 13, few apply any checks.
A survey for the children’s BBC channel found that more than three quarters of 10 to 12 year olds also have social media accounts.
The NSPCC has recently cited social media as a major cause of the dramatic increase in the numbers of children admitted to hospital as a result of self-harming.
Soucer: Daily Mail
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