Whether it’s a TV, computer monitor, or your phone, most of us stare at a screen of sorts every day. So it’s probably no surprise that all this digital screen time is wrecking havoc on our mental health, particularly among teenagers.
Researchers at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital conducted a four-year study into the link between depression and exposure to different types of screen time among adolescents studying the media consumption of over 3,800 young people from 31 Montreal schools.
The results don’t paint the rosiest of filtered pictures as the researchers found that those who consumed social media and TV the most had an increase in “depressive symptoms.”
The study found that young people who were on social media platforms like Instagram had increased symptoms of depression because they’re likely to compare themselves to all the glitz and glamour being promoted in their feeds.
Lead researcher Patricia Conrod says that social media “exposes young people to images that promote upward social comparison and makes them feel bad about themselves” and constant exposure to those platforms are “echo chambers” that “promote or reinforce” depression.
While social media and TV was found to do a number on young people’s mental health, the results interestingly showed that playing video games didn’t have the same effect.
In fact, the opposite effect is more likely as the study suggested that the average gamer wasn’t the stereotypical basement-dwelling loner but in fact a functioning human being who enjoyed playing games with others online or in person.
That being said, it’s still early days into this subject. Conrad’s colleague, Elroy Boers, says that the topic isn’t widely studied despite it being very common among young people but the results of the study is an indication that more research is needed, saying that the current level of knowledge is akin to what we knew about smoking in the 1970s.
“I would almost compare it to smoking in the 1970s, where the very negative effects are still relatively unknown,” said Boers.
“What we found is quite worrisome and needs further investigation.”