Social media is a bigger cause of depression than video games

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The most addicted teenagers to platforms like Instagram and Netflix have more depressive symptoms than others. Researchers at the University of Montreal warn about time spent on social networks.

They are sometimes a source of complexes, can generate a feeling of loneliness, dissatisfaction or frustration. Social networks would be a source of many problems for dependent users, as has already been pointed out in various studies. Last January, a team from the University College of London warned 14-year-old girls, who are more exposed than boys to the risk of depression due to excessive use of social networks like Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat. A new study from the Université de Montréal highlights the point and highlights the dangers of an overdose of social networks on the mental health of adolescents.

Again, the excessive time spent on video games and the computer is out of the question. According to researchers at the Sainte-Justine Pediatric University Hospital Center (CHU), affiliated with the Université de Montréal, they would not be “predictors of depression” among adolescents, unlike social networks and television.

To reach these conclusions, relayed in JAMA Pediatrics on July 15th, the exposure time and the nature of the contents watched on the social networks, the television, the video games and the computer of 4000 teenagers Canadian were scrutinized. When teens spent more time than usual on the networks, and television, their symptoms of depression increased during the same year. Among the symptoms felt: a depressive state, a sense of uselessness and recurring morbid thoughts.

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How to explain these symptoms? According to the authors, it is not so much the lack of physical activity that is to blame as the frequency of exposure and the nature of the contents viewed. “Adolescents who watch programs or visit sites that encourage them to compare themselves to others (the so-called” upward social comparison “) are more likely to have low self-esteem,” they said. researchers on the University of Montreal (UdeM) website. On social networks, another process would be at work, that of “downward spiral”. Explanation: Social networks, compared to other screen-based activities, intensify signs of depression in adolescents who already show such signs. A vicious circle in sum that describes the authors.

“Social media and television are media that frequently expose teenagers to images of other better-off young people, such as those with a” perfect “body, a thrilling lifestyle, or more money,” says Elroy Boers, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychiatry of the UdeM Faculty of Medicine and lead author of the study. “As the theory of” reinforcement spirals “shows, people search for and choose the information that is in keeping with their current state of mind. (…) Therefore, the more the depressive state influences the viewing choices of an individual, the more one suggests to him and provides him with similar contents and the more he is exposed to these contents, which will have the effect of maintaining and aggravating the depression. “

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Research is needed to confirm that exposure to social networks is increasing the rate of depression in adolescents, academics say. Nevertheless, these results demonstrate the need for young people and their parents to “better control the time they spend in front of screens”.

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Carl Frantz

Polyglot, humanitarian, Carl was born in Germany but raised in the USA. He writes mostly on tech, science and culture.