Parents should worry less about the amount of time their children spend on social media during the day and instead make sure their offspring get enough sleep and discuss negative online experiences, researchers say.

A study suggests that while frequent use of social media does appear to be linked to poorer mental health, the effects are not direct. Instead it suggests such links might be down to social media use displacing other activities, such as sleep, or that it opens the door to cyberbullying.

Prof Russell Viner, a co-author of the study, from the UCL Great Ormond Street institute of child health, said: “While we obsess a lot about social media, how much do we obsess about how much our young people sleep? Not very much – but it is a more important factor, actually, in determining their mental health.”

The team say one approach is for parents to keep phones out of children’s bedrooms, adding that teenagers need up to 10 hours’ sleep a night.

Do not let children take electronic devices into bedrooms, say doctors

Dr Dasha Nicholls from Imperial College London, a co-author of the research, said adults should ask children about whether they were being bullied online. She said: “Parents and others need to know what their young people’s social environment is online as much as they do in the real world.”

But the team say further research into the effects of social media is needed, adding that insights from companies such as Facebook could prove valuable if they were made available.

With half of all mental illnesses starting by age 14, the influence of social media has been in the spotlight. While some have suggested the rise of sites and apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat could have a negative impact on young people’s health, others have cited positive effects, including connecting young people and boosting support networks. A study published this year by researchers in Oxford suggested the use of social media by children has very little impact on their levels of life satisfaction.

Writing in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, Viner and colleagues report how they analysed data collected from a series of surveys on how often teenagers used platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The first was carried out in 2013 among 13- to 14-year-olds across 886 schools in England, and participants were interviewed again in the two years that followed, with 9,797 participants during …read more

Source:: Daily Times

      

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Children’s lack of sleep ‘more harmful than social media use’

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