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Study: Social media use has negative impact on girls at younger age than boys

Gender differences in sensitivity to social media use, according to researchers, could be linked to developmental changes, such as structure of the brain and puberty.

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By Maria Collinge via SWNS

Social media use has a negative impact on girls at a younger age than boys, according to a major new study.

Girls aged 11 to 13 experience lower levels of life satisfaction as a result of social media usage while the same goes for boys aged between 14 and 15, suggest the findings.

Lower life satisfaction can also be predicted at age 19 due to social media usage, which researchers suggest could be down to key life changes.

Scientists from Cambridge University, Oxford University, and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Holland monitored and analyzed data from 84,000 individuals age 10 to 80 including 17,400 young people aged from 10 to 21-years-old.

Tracking their levels of life satisfaction within a 12-month period of increased social media usage, levels of life satisfaction are shown to differ across different stages of adolescence.

The study also reveals that teens who have lower than average life satisfaction are more susceptible to adopting social media one year later.

Gender differences in sensitivity to social media use, according to researchers, could be linked to developmental changes, such as structure of the brain and puberty.

Study leader Dr. Amy Orben, of Cambridge University, said: “The link between social media use and mental wellbeing is clearly very complex.

“Changes within our bodies, such as brain development and puberty, and in our social circumstances appear to make us vulnerable at particular times of our lives.”

Co-author Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, also of Cambridge University, said: “It’s not possible to pinpoint the precise processes that underlie this vulnerability.

“Adolescence is a time of cognitive, biological and social change, all of which are intertwined, making it difficult to disentangle one factor from another.

“For example, it is not yet clear what might be due to developmental changes in hormones or the brain and what might be down to how an individual interacts with their peers.”

The researchers say that further research should be undertaken to decipher which individuals are most at risk.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, said: “To pinpoint which individuals might be influenced by social media, more research is needed that combines objective behavioral data with biological and cognitive measurements of development.

“We therefore call on social media companies and other online platforms to do more to share their data with independent scientists, and, if they are unwilling, for governments to show they are serious about tackling online harms by introducing legislation to compel these companies to be more open.”

Dr. Orben added: “With our findings, rather than debating whether or not the link exists, we can now focus on the periods of our adolescence where we now know we might be most at risk and use this as a springboard to explore some of the really interesting questions.”

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