Social media pressures

A recent study by the University of Glasgow suggests social media pressures cause teenagers to suffer anxiety and depression.

Young people are experiencing depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation because they feel a constant need to be available 24/7 according to research published by the University of Glasgow.

The researchers, Dr Heather Cleland Woods and Holly Scott provided 467 teenagers with questionnaires regarding their overall and night-time specific social media use. A further set of tests measured sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and emotional investment in social media which relates to the pressure felt to be available 24/7 and the anxiety around, for example. Not responding immediately to texts or posts.

Results showed that a constant need to be available online was making teens feel tired, run down and anxious as they struggled to keep in-the-loop with what was happening on the internet. 

Speaking about the results of the questionnaire, the lead researcher, Dr Cleland Woods says that adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety and that the evidence suggests a correlation between social media and wellbeing. 

“While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected,” said Woods. “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 switching off time.” 

Similarly, a study by the British voluntary personal and social development programme, National Citizen Services (NCS) showed that 88 per cent of 12 to 18-year-olds have experienced stress over the past 12 months. The top reason for such stress is the pressure to do well at school, while other factors such as finding a boyfriend/girlfriend and being popular at school also feature. 

In two thirds of cases, the NCS says this has led to symptoms of stress-related illnesses, including insomnia, eating disorders and depression, particularly among those aged 15 and also among girls. Even one in five 12-year-olds reported feeling stressed about future plans which is not only leading to young people displaying behaviours such as lashing out at friends and family, turning to drugs, tobacco or alcohol, but is also leading to a generation of ‘decision paralysis’ whereby they feel so overwhelmed by the huge life choices they face that half of teens delay making choices altogether.

Speaking about the pressures teenagers now find themselves faced with Janey Downshire, a counsellor specialising in teenage development and emotional literacy urged parents not to place more pressure on their children and warned that they may be doing so, even unwittingly.

“Approaching a conversation about their future in a calm and measured way will encourage a proactive discussion which will only help them to think about it for themselves and aid-decision making,” said Downshire.

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