August 19, 2019

An adolescent daughter's mood and sense of wellbeing have been on parent's minds for centuries. The variables of distraction and abuse change over time leading up to the current study in the Journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health by Dr. Viner and colleagues. They looked at a secondary analyses of public data from the Our Futures study, an English longitudinal study of 12,866 young people from age 13 years to 16 years analyzing the social media effects on adolescent mental health and well-being.

From the study: "The exposure considered was the frequency of social media use (from weekly or less to very frequent [multiple times daily]) at wave 1 (participants aged 13-14 years) through wave 3 of the study (participants aged 15-16 years). Outcomes were mental health at wave 2 (with high 12-item General Health Questionnaire [GHQ12] scores [≥3] indicating psychological distress), and wellbeing at wave 3 (life satisfaction, feeling life is worthwhile, happiness, and anxiety, rated from 1 to 10 by participants)... Cyberbullying, sleep adequacy, and physical activity were assessed as potential mediators of the effects."

"Very frequent use of social media increased from wave 1 to wave 3: from 34% to 62% in boys, and 51% to 75% in girls. Very frequent social media use in wave 1 predicted a high GHQ12 score at wave 2 among girls and boys. Persistent very frequent social media use across waves 1 and 2 predicted lower wellbeing among girls only for life satisfaction; for happiness. Adjustment for cyberbullying, sleep, and physical activity attenuated the associations of social media use with GHQ12 high score, life satisfaction (80%), happiness (47%), and anxiety (32%) in girls, such that these associations (except for anxiety) were no longer significant; however, the association with GHQ12 high score among boys remained significant, being mediated only 12% by these factors."

My interpretation: whereas boys are on balance more addicted to video gaming, girls appear much more addicted to the social media side of the video distraction world. This study set adds to a long list of data points showing us that we need to be very cognizant of our children's social media use.


Excessive screen time at night regardless of social media content or not, displaces sleep time at night which has huge downstream affects on mood and cognition. Getting adequate volumes of sleep cleans the brain, consolidates memory and provides for repair throughout our biological systems. Social media for young girls is likely significantly more enticing at night than other forms of video. Being awoken at night by a tweet or IM text from another teen is very disruptive to sleep's healing effects. Everyone knows what sleep loss does to their feelings of mood stability the following 48 hours!


Excessive social media time clearly puts a young lady at higher risk for exposure to cyber bullying or other predatory behaviors. This is just a time based effect.


Spend enough time doing anything in the social media world and a risk will arise.


Excessive screen and social media time has to displace something else more beneficial based on a 24 hour day cycle. For example, if sleep is not sacrificed then on average, people will exercise less and/or learn fewer instruments or art forms as time shrinks away. There is a running bank of time that is allotted per day and activities must be divided up over the course of the day.


Putting it all together: the more time a person spends on social media, the higher the risk of negative events occurring that can disrupt normal mental functions. Decreased sleep, exposure to bullying, less accomplished activities and a decreased sense of self worth.

Dr. M

Viner Lancet Child and Adolescent Health Article