It’s been a common refrain; tech and social media are bad for teens’ mental health, but those assertions have been made without the backing of research largely and actual studies into the area have indicated that it might not be true.
Reports of mental health symptoms were collected from adolescents three times a day and they also reported on their daily technology usage each night.
The researchers asked whether youth who engaged more with digital technologies were more likely to experience later mental health symptoms and whether days that adolescents spent more time using digital technology for a wide range of purposes were also days when mental health problems were more common. In both cases, increased digital technology use was not related to worse mental health.
When associations were observed, they were small and in the opposite direction that would be expected given all of the recent concerns about digital technology damaging adolescents' mental health. For instance, teens who reported sending more text messages over the study period actually reported feeling better (less depressed) than teens who were less frequent texters.
"It may be time for adults to stop arguing over whether smartphones and social media are good or bad for teens' mental health and start figuring out ways to best support them in both their offline and online lives," researcher Candice Odgers said.
Odgers tracked young adolescents on their smartphones to test whether more time spent using digital technology was linked to worse mental health outcomes.
"Contrary to the common belief that smartphones and social media are damaging adolescents' mental health, we don't see much support for the idea that time spent on phones and online is associated with increased risk for mental health problems," Jensen said.
Odgers’ study surveyed more than 2000 youth and then intensively tracked a subsample of nearly 400 teens on their smartphones multiple times a day for two weeks. Adolescents in the study were between 10 and 15 years old and represented the economically and racially diverse population of youth attending North Carolina public schools.
Image by Summer Skyes 11 under flicr cc attribution license