"These findings are highly relevant to current policy development on guidelines for the safe use of social media and calls on industry to more tightly regulate hours of social media use for young people", she said in a statement.
The study is the first of its kind and is based on data from nearly 11,000 14-year-olds who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, a large-scale research project looking into the lives of children.
Teenage girls are twice as likely as boys to show depressive symptoms linked to social media use - mainly due to online harassment and disturbed sleep, as well as poor body image and lower selfesteem, researchers said yesterday. The study found that two-fifths of the girls became the victims of online harassment or cyber-bullying compared to one-quarter of boys. We were quite surprised when we saw the figures and we saw those raw percentages: "the fact that the magnitude of association was so much larger for girls than for boys", said Yvonne Kelly, first author of the study. Only 28 percent of boys had the same experience. They also completed the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire which is used to screen for symptoms of depression. For girls, greater daily hours of social media use corresponded to a stepwise increase in depressive symptoms. While one in 10 boys do not use social media at all, only 4 per cent of girls said the same.
Yet the study, conducted in the United Kingdom, showed only an association between social media use and symptoms of depression, which can include feelings of unhappiness, restlessness or loneliness.
The use of social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat might be causing teenagers, especially girls, to experience depressive symptoms. How Internet Use Affect The Emotional Well-Being Of Teenagers As researchers delve even deeper into the case, they found that more girls have experienced online harassment or cyberbullying than boys.
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The study had some limitations, including that the findings show only a correlation between depressive symptoms and social media use, not a causal relationship.
"Inevitably there is the chicken and egg question, as to whether more dissatisfied children, who to begin with are less pleased with their body shape and have fewer friends then spend more time on social media". "Adolescents have social anxiety and exhibit their emotions, views and opinions by communicating to people on social media".
For example, almost 40 percent of girls who spent more than five hours a day on apps such as Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp also showed signs of depression, compared with 14.5 percent of boys.
"For me, the sleep one is probably the most actionable in some ways", said Maslow, who was not involved in the research.