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This is How High Levels of Social Media Can Harm Young People

*Deletes Instagram*

How much time do you spend on social media per day? An hour? Two hours? Or are you one of the virtuous types who generally spends no more than 30 minutes scrolling through your feeds?

Social media has become an increasingly major part of our modern lives, facilitating catch-ups, communication, and even careers in some cases.

It's widely accepted that there's a link between online platforms like Instagram and poor mental health - whether it's a damaged self-esteem as a result of constant comparison, or social anxiety as a result of not having to forge real-life connections. But new research suggests that's not the only way social media can have a detrimental effect on the health of young people. It can also dramatically reduce the time spent on healthy activities, such as sleeping and exercising, the investigation revealed.

The study in question was conducted by University College London's Great Ormond St Institute of Child Health, and was recently published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The BBC reports researchers interviewed a representative group of more than 12,000 teenagers at schools across England over a three-year period (between the ages of 13 and 16) and monitored their findings.

At 13, the participants were asked how often they checked social-media sites (but not how long they spent using them). At 14, the group was quizzed on mental health, sleep, physical activity, and cyber-bullying. At 15/16, the subjects were asked about their levels of happiness, anxiety, and satisfaction with life.

Among the female participants, researchers found a number of causal factors in those who appeared to be suffering most mentally (reporting high levels of anxiety and low levels of happiness and satisfaction). Not only were the teenage girls thought to be experiencing poor mental health due to social media exposure itself, but also because of reduced sleep and/or physical activity - presumably as a result of time spent on apps.

The teenage girls in the study predominantly reported very frequent use of social media; 75% of the eldest group of females checked social media more than three times a day.

For that reason, researchers recommended that phones should be banned from bedrooms after 10pm, and more physical activity should be encouraged among teenagers.

Now, who fancies a run in the park instead of a scroll through Facebook?