Social media is fuelling sharply higher rates of depression among girls than boys, a study that interviewed almost 11,000 14-year-olds has found. As many as three-quarters of 14-year-old girls who suffer from depression also have low self-esteem and are unhappy with how they look. Greater daily hours of social media use corresponds to an increase in depressive symptoms, explained Professor Yvonne Kelly from University College London, as well as poor sleep.
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, warned that even some children as young as nine “are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy”. Shannon McLaughlin, 18, from Blackburn, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in her early teens, said: “People mostly share the positive things about life on social media, without showing the negatives … Seeing that everyone was happy and enjoying life made me feel so much worse.” Barbara Keeley, the shadow minister for mental health, said social media firms should be forced to adopt a duty of care to protect young users.
Separately this morning, paediatricians are saying that screen time is not inherently bad for children, but parents do need to focus on making sure their children get enough sleep, exercise and family interaction. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has produced guidance including a checklist for whether your family’s screen time is under control.