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Time spent on social media increases the risk of suicide for girls, but not for boys

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Important point

  • A 10-year study found that high levels of early social media and / or television use in early adolescence, followed by increased use as children grew older, best predicted the risk of suicide in girls. ..
  • Parents can limit their daily use and participate in conversations to prevent their children from having a negative impact on their mental health associated with screen time.

During an isolated period, social media has provided the long-awaited means for many teens to stay in school and attend school in remote areas. However, increased use of social media would not be possible without that risk.

Researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) have found in a 10-year study that teenage girls use social media for more than 2-3 hours a day, start using it at a young age, and increase their time to commit suicide. I found that the risk was high. I spent a lot of time on these apps.

The survey began in 2009, when social media wasn’t as popular as it is today. But since they started early, researchers could measure the impact of other types of media such as television, video games, and various mobile phone applications, as well as the impact of social media on its growth and development. It was.

In addition to the data Dr. Sara Coin, BYU’s lead author and professor of human development, he provides techniques to help teens build healthy relationships with social media for other parents.

Coyne, who has five children, tells Verywell that TikTok is becoming one of the entertainments of her 13-year-old daughter Hannah. “My advice is to start slowly,” she says. “We are trying to get Hannah to do it for about 15 to 30 minutes a day.”

Data is, Prosperous family project, And the study was published in Adolescent and Adolescent Journal In early February 2021.

What this means to you

Simply limiting your child’s use of social media or teaching them to pay attention to their online experience will help protect their mental health and maintain it as a positive place to connect with social media.

Clear pattern among girls

Through an annual survey distributed from 2009 to 2019, researchers surveyed 500 teenagers, women aged 12 to 15 years at the start of the survey, for 10 years of media use and suicide risk. I measured it.

To assess the risk of suicide, researchers conducted a revised Suicide Behavior Questionnaire (SBQ-R) asking about past suicide attempts, frequency of suicide attempts, suicide threats, and possible suicide deaths. ..Scores range from 3 to 18, with a score above 6 indicating that participants are at clinical level suicide risk.

There is no clear link between the use and risk of boys and men, but there is a tendency for girls and women. The risk of suicide increased when:

  • I started using social media early (13 years ago)
  • Use it or watch TV for at least 2-3 hours a day
  • The older you get, the longer you use

In a press release, Coyne said that this particular pattern could mix with the social tendencies of young girls and make them more sensitive. “In general, girls and women are very sensitive to relationships, interpersonal stressors, and social media is all about relationships,” she said. Fear of overlooking, potential cyber-bullying experienced online.

For boys, video games were associated with an increased risk of suicide when players reported cyberbullying in-game, like live games where players talk to each other through a headset.

“What surprised me most was the lack of long-term predictors for boys,” says Coyne, but the link between video games and cyberbullying was identified in the short term. In her studies of media and mental health, there is usually not much difference in gender.

“Social media isn’t always bad,” says Coyne. “This is a particular pattern and trajectory of social media. It’s not about banning social media, it’s about teaching children to use it in a healthy and effective way.”

Research limits

Although the findings were statistically significant, Coyne added that she would like to expand and diversify the sample if she conducts the study again. “Overall, the population tends to be a little wealthier or middle class, so there isn’t much diversity there,” she says.

It should also be noted that this study did not measure suicide attempts, or whether any of the participants attempted suicide attempts. The cause is not clear, but one of the participants was found dead. “It’s hard to tell from what we find whether people actually try to commit suicide,” says Coyne.

Teenage suicides are rare but on the rise

Suicide rates continue to rise in the United States while researchers collect data. The National Center for Health Statistics reported a 30% increase in suicide mortality between 2000 and 2016, an increase of 1% to 2% per capita. Year. At the same time, girls and women increased by 50% and boys and men increased by 21% to commit suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2016.

Coyne adds that if you or anyone you know has children suffering from social media or mental health, it is important to get the help they need. “You may need professional help,” says Coyne. “It’s important to encourage parents to look for it.”

“Only a small percentage of children actually try to commit suicide for social media, but they are present and should not minimize what they are experiencing. As a parent yours How difficult it is to see a child go through those difficulties, “she adds.

Social media best practices

Coyne, a researcher as well as a mother, encourages parents to monitor usage time and encourage open discussions about their children’s experiences. On her website Social media curriculumIn a video aimed at promoting mindfulness and reflection while using the tool.

In addition to limiting her daughter’s daily use of social media, Coyne has a conversation asking her feelings when using TikTok. “”

For now, her daughter is enjoying the platform and just wants to make more videos, but Coyne hopes these conversations will help her become more aware of her experience. ..

“It’s about helping our children become critical thinkers about their own experiences, which build a foothold and are modeled over time,” she says. “I really hope that one day she will have a negative experience, and she will say,” You know, this particular person I’m following is about myself I feel sick. ” Or, “This particular platform I’m using is disappointing me. What can I do to help my mental health and my experience on social media?”

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