A newly published Oxford study has found little to no association between tech and mental health problems in teens. This study was conducted on more than 430,000 teenagers with data gathered over the course of 28 years.
This study took into account TV viewing, social media use, and device usage on candidates aged between 10 and 15. The tech usage was compared to feelings of depression, suicidal tendencies, and behavioral problems.
The study found no correlation or notable changes over time.
The study came from surveys carried out in the US and UK between 1991 and 2019. It was a time where tech and social media usage in teens was rapidly evolving.
The co-author of the study, Professor Andrew Przybylski said:
We’re not saying that fewer happy people use more social media, we’re saying that the connection is not getting stronger. We couldn’t tell the difference between social media impact and mental health in 2010 and 2019.
He added that the results of this study should be a warning to tech regulators and lawmakers who tend to associate tech and social media with mental health problems in teens. It should be a warning to all authorities who use this subject to introduce new and restriction policies.
However, the study did have its flaws. The participants graded their own feelings in questionnaires and it did not include the nature of device or social media use, which was also self-reported. For instance, a teenager could self-report that they use their smartphone for 4 hours, but it was unclear what they were doing on it or whether the data was inaccurate.
This is because there is currently no formal way to obtain pinpoint accurate usage data without requesting it from tech firms