New study suggests impact of social media on teenagers is minimal

A new Oxford University study suggests that the negative impact social media has on teenagers is much smaller than previously thought.

IAB UK

The team of researchers from Oxford University looked at the way the wellbeing of 12,000 adolescents was affected by such sites. Their aim was to find out whether teenagers who have a higher than average use of social media have lower life satisfaction. While a number of studies have been conducted into this issue in the past, with contradictory results, this one claims to have gone into the matter in greater detail.

Professor Andrew Przybylski and Amy Orben, from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, called the majority of links between life satisfaction and social media use “trivial”. They added that such sites accounted for less than 1% of a teenager’s wellbeing, concluding social media was "not a one-way street".

Professor Przybylski, Director of Research at the institute, said: "99.75% of a person's life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media."

Conducted between 2009 and 2017, the study asked participants between the ages of 10 and 15 to state how long they typically spend on social media, on a normal school day. They were also asked to rate how satisfied they felt about a variety of different aspects in their lives. Girls were found to experience more effects from social media use than boys, but these were still low and less than half of these impacts were statistically significant, the scientists said.

Commenting on the results, Professor Przybylski added: "Parents shouldn't worry about time on social media - thinking about it that way is wrong. "We are fixated on time - but we need to retire this notion of screen time. The results are not showing evidence for great concern."

In the wake of the research, the experts will go on to look at how social media apps are used and not just the amount of time that is spent on them. They now urge companies to release data on how their services are used to help inform a larger picture of the situation.

IAB UK logo

Supportive thought leadership on today’s biggest issues, the best of digital advertising and the future of the industry

Our members achieve more as part of our community through network information, education, stewardship and advocacy.

supportive