Researchers at the University of Montreal have found a link between increased screen time and rising depression rates.
Researchers followed almost 4,000 Canadians aged 12 to 16 over four years.
Every year, students completed a survey about the amount of time they’d spent in front of digital screens and the specific type of activity they had engaged in — social media, television, video-gaming or computer use.
Over the course of four years, as little as a one-hour annual increase in social media or television viewing was associated with more severe depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem.
But the study didn’t suggest all screens were a problem. Increasing video gaming and computer use was not associated with increases in depressive symptoms. Most likely because these platforms are more interactive and are less likely to make teens directly compare themselves with others.
For those in the study who were prone to higher levels of depression, as social media use went up, so did their symptoms.
The algorithms of social media, in particular, send suggestions for similar content depending on what users have viewed before. Researchers said that could aggravate users’ depression and increase feelings of hopelessness, possibly even to the point of suicidal ideation.
The solution? Rather than telling kids to avoid screens,researchers say communicate with them, and find a balance.