What Can Parents Do About It?


Parents of teenagers should forbid the use of social networks and all digital devices after 10 p.m. and also inspire their children to increase their physical activities. Besides the proven negative influence social media has on exercise and sleep, research has shown that young females are often prey of cyber-bullies. Sadly, exposure to cyber-bullying can cause severe psychological distress in adolescent girls. However, the reasons behind psychological distress in young males are still not clear.

The study conducted in the U.K. shows that only one out of ten children in teenage years are not using social networks. Due to the disturbing results, there has been growing concern regarding the general well-being of children, including both their mental and physical health. The issue got more complicated as researchers didn’t have access to long-term, comprehensive data at their disposal. The lack of data caused a lot of contradictory evidence to show up in the study. So far, the researchers had been able to work with over twelve thousand English teenage students over the course of three years. The participants of the U.K. study were children aged from 13 to 16.

How Was the Study Conducted?

After the researchers interviewed all of the participants of the study, they found out the vast majority of male and female teenagers were routinely using social networks. During the study, the children were asked how often they used any of the leading social networks. The participants didn’t have to provide the data about the estimate or an exact number of hours they spend on their social media accounts. The precise results of this study conducted with U.K. teenagers are presented in the chart below.

51% Female Teenagers in Year 9 Used social media over three times a day
43% Male Teenagers in Year 9 Used social media over three times a day
75% Female Teenagers in Year 11 Used social media over three times a day
69% Male Teenagers in Year 11 Used social media over three times a day

The participants also provided answers to the questions regarding their general well-being, mental health problems such as anxiety, the level of happiness, the general satisfaction with their lives, the quality of their sleep, the frequency of their physical activities, and their contact with cyber-bullying.

What Did the Research Show?


The research also showed that male individuals who visited social networks over three times a day dealt with increased psychological distress and experienced mental health issues. The young female participants, however, pointed out their general feeling of unhappiness and anxiety issues — problems that male participants haven’t mentioned during the study. The researchers came to the conclusion that there was an apparent connection between the use of social networks and mental health issues in minors.

The results of the study imply that young males experienced fewer mental health problems than young females. Teenage girls demonstrated increased health problems that were most directly caused by the lack of quality sleep, and unfortunately, cyber-bullying. However, the lack of physical activity due to the use of social networks wasn’t that noticeable in young female participants of the study.

Should Parents Be Concerned?

Russell Viner, one of the main conductors of the study, pointed out that parents should pay attention to the amount of time their children dedicate to social media. However, Russell Viner also said that the possible positive effects of social media shouldn’t be overlooked. The study author emphasized the significance of physical activity and healthy sleep at a young age and said that parents should try to control these important aspects of their children’s lives.

Dr. Dasha Nicholls, also one of the study conductors, said that the key to resolving the social media issue is in balance. She also pointed out that problems happen only when social networks replace the important parts of children’s lives.

Is There a Difference Between the Ways Boys and Girls Approach Social Media?

The final results of the research suggest that there is a difference in the way social media impacts young females and young males. However, the researchers were not able to shed more light on the issue, as more data is needed. It still remains unclear why girls and boys react on social media in different ways, and why they experience different negative consequences from it. The impact that social media has on boys’ lives is particularly confusing — all evidence on the matter so far is inconclusive.

What Can Parents Do About Cyber-Bullying?

Dr. Dasha Nicholls pointed out that parents should limit the use of social networks, and ban it at night. The exposure to harmful virtual content has a far more negative effect when it occurs before sleep. She also said that cyberbullying is a serious issue and that society should not turn a blind eye to it.

Dr. Louise Theodosiou stated that scientists still need much more comprehensive data to understand how the ill influence of social networks can be prevented and solved. The doctor also mentioned that social networking corporations should finance these important scientific studies that should shed more light on the relation between social networks and health issues in children. Dr. Theodosiou stated that social media companies should also encourage children to use the cyberspace safely. However, at this point, parents have to understand the importance of the impact that they can have on the social media habits of their children. Parents can influence and change their children’s internet behavior, and their approach to social media networks.