Social Media Increases Teen Girls’ Exposure to Bullying

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Social media takes a toll on the health of teen girls due to increased exposure to cyberbullying and because the time they spend on those platforms detracts from sleep and exercise, according to a study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

More social media use was associated with higher levels of psychological distress in boys and girls. For girls, the related cyberbullying and poor quality of sleep accounted for nearly 60% of that distress, while those factors accounted for just 12% of the same impact on boys. More female participants in the study (75.4% in the final year) reported checking social media multiple times per day than male participants (61.9%).

Study coauthor Dasha Nicholls, MD, stated, “The message, really, is that it’s not social-media use, per se, that causes harm. It’s about getting a balance between social-media use and other age-appropriate activities, and ensuring that there aren’t specific negative things happening online.”

A survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health found that social media made teens feel more depressed, anxious, and lonely, and increased poor body image.

Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, clinical psychologist, told the Child Mind Institute that “Girls are socialized more to compare themselves to other people, girls in particular, to develop their identities, so it makes them more vulnerable to the downside of all this [social media use].”

Nicholls recommended three ways to mitigate the negative impact of social media: “Get enough sleep; don’t lose contact with your friends in real life; and physical activity.”

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should parents limit or otherwise make rules about teens’ use of social media? What sort of rules could they set?

2. What are the pros and cons of social media use? With which side do you most agree and why?

3. What could social media platforms do to protect users from cyberbullying?

Sources:

Leah Asmelash, “Social Media Use May Harm Teens’ Mental Health by Disrupting Positive Activities, Study Says,” cnn.com, Aug. 13, 2019

Jamie Ducharme, “Social Media Hurts Girls More Than Boys,” time.com, Aug. 13, 2019

Rachel Ehmke, “How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers,” childmind.org (accessed Aug. 14, 2019)

Natasha Hinde, “3 Consequences of Social Media Use That Could Be Harming Teen Girls’ Mental Health,” huffingtonpost.co.uk, Aug. 13, 2019

Katie Kindelan, “Social Media Is Harmful to Teen Girls’ Mental Health: What You Should Know,” abcnews.go.com, Aug. 14, 2019

Russell M. Viner, et al., “Roles of Cyberbullying, Sleep, and Physical Activity in Mediating the Effects of Social Media Use on Mental Health and Wellbeing among Young People in England: A Secondary Analysis of Longitudinal Data,” thelancet.com, Aug. 13, 2019