Study: Social media and general tech engagement not found to “fry” teenagers’ brains

Little to no increase in association between adolescents’ mental health problems and digital tech (Science Daily):

With the explosion in digital entertainment options over the past several decades and the more recent restrictions on outdoor and in-person social activities, parents may worry that excessive engagement with digital technology could have long-term effects on their children’s mental health.

A new study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, however, found little evidence for an increased association between adolescents’ technology engagement and mental health problems over the past 30 years. The data did not consistently support the suggestion that the technologies we worry about most (e.g., smartphones) are becoming more harmful…

“If we want to understand the relationship between tech and well-being today, we need to first go back and look at historic data — as far back as when parents were concerned too much TV would give their kids square eyes — in order to bring the contemporary concerns we have about newer technologies into focus,” said Matti Vuorre, a postdoctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and lead author on the paper.

The Study:

There Is No Evidence That Associations Between Adolescents’ Digital Technology Engagement and Mental Health Problems Have Increased (Clinical Psychological Science)

  • Abstract: Digital technology is ubiquitous in modern adolescence, and researchers are concerned that it has negative impacts on mental health that, furthermore, increase over time. To investigate whether technology is becoming more harmful, we examined changes in associations between technology engagement and mental health in three nationally representative samples. Results were mixed across types of technology and mental health outcomes: Technology engagement had become less strongly associated with depression in the past decade, but social-media use had become more strongly associated with emotional problems. We detected no changes in five other associations or differential associations by sex. There is therefore little evidence for increases in the associations between adolescents’ technology engagement and mental health. Information about new digital media has been collected for a relatively short time; drawing firm conclusions about changes in their associations with mental health may be premature. We urge transparent and credible collaborations between scientists and technology companies.

The Study in Context:

  • Is the Internet Good or Bad for You?
  • On cutting “empty brain calories” by reading a book instead of social media
  • Four guidelines for smart use of smartphones

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Outsmarting Smart Technology to Reclaim our Health and Focus from SharpBrains

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