Online Social Networking and Adolescent Mental Health
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Background This study examines longitudinal associations of frequency of social media use, cyberbullying involvement, and online social network characteristics with depressive symptoms, social anxiety symptoms, and mental well-being at one year follow-up in a multi-ethnic sample of early adolescents living in areas of East London characterised by high levels of deprivation. Studies of the impact of adolescent social media use on mental health have primarily used cross-sectional data; longitudinal research is needed to investigate temporality and lasting mental health effects. Method Longitudinal analyses (n=2480) of data from the NIHR funded Olympic Regeneration in East London (ORiEL) study examined the impact of baseline (aged 12-13) social media use including: frequency of instant messaging (IM) and social networking site (SNS) use, cyberbullying, and online network characteristics (network size and communication with strangers); on adolescent mental health outcomes including depression (measured using the Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire), social anxiety (measured using the Mini Social Phobia Inventory) and well-being (measured using the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale) one year later. Results After adjustment for gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, school and baseline mental health, cybervictims (13.6%) and cyberbully-victims (20.4%) had greater odds of reporting symptoms of depression (victims: OR=1.44, 95% CI [1.00, 2.06]; bully-victims: OR=1.54 95% CI [1.13, 2.09]), and symptoms of social anxiety (victims: OR=1.52, 95% CI [1.11, 2.07]; bully-victims: OR=1.44 95% CI [1.10, 1.89]) than their uninvolved peers. Communication with strangers (24.7%) was also associated with increased odds of depression (OR=1.35, 95% CI [1.04, 1.76]) at follow-up. Conclusions Poorer mental health outcomes were reported by students who encountered risks online (i.e. those using IM at high frequencies, those who communicated with strangers online, and those victimised by cyberbullying). Given the prevalence of these risk factors, clinicians and public health practitioners should address social media activity when assessing adolescent mental health.
AuthorsFahy, Amanda Elizabeth
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