(TIME) — Social media may damage teens' mental health. But a new study offers advice on how to use it safely
Social media can damage teens' mental health under certain circumstances, but a new study says it can be used safely. Here's how.
A new study published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health suggests the issue is even more nuanced. Social media is associated with mental health issues, the research says—but only under certain circumstances, and only for certain people. In girls, frequent social-media use seemed to harm health when it led to either cyberbullying and/or inadequate sleep and exercise. But these factors did not seem to have the same effect on boys, and the study didn’t pick up on specific ways that social networks could be harming them.
Researchers analyzed data from the Our Futures study, which tracked about 10,000 U.K. teenagers over three years. Starting in 2013, the teens—then aged 13-14—answered questions about the frequency of their social-media use and in-person social interaction, as well as their health and demographic profiles. In subsequent years, the same teenagers provided updated information about their social-media use, and responded to other questions about their mental health, sleep habits, physical activity and brushes with cyberbullying.