Social media is making girls unhappy and has a greater impact on their well-being than boys’, new research has found.
Girls also spend longer on social media than boys, and those who start using it younger tend to be unhappier as they get older.
Scientists at the University of Essex and University College London discovered that girls who spend an hour or more on social media by the age of 10 showed lower well-being by the time they reached 15.
The research, based on a survey of 9,859 UK adolescents aged 10 to 15 years old, showed that children spend longer on social media they older they get.
And while well-being fell throughout adolescence for boys, the drop was much larger for girls – happiness scores plunged nearly three points from 36.9 to 33.3 in girls, and two points from 36.02 to 34.55 in boys.
Participants were assessed using a happiness score on different aspects of their lives including family and school.
They also filled out a ‘strengths and difficulties’ questionnaire measuring negative aspects of well-being such as emotional and behavioural problems.
The study used data from the youth panel of the UK Household Panel Study between 2009 and 2015.
Dr Cara Brooker, one of the study’s authors, said: ‘Our findings suggest that it is important to monitor early interactions with social media, particularly in girls, as this could have an impact on well-being later in adolescence and perhaps throughout adulthood.
‘Since we did not observe an association between social media use and well-being among boys, other factors, such as the amount of time spent gaming, might be associated with the boys’ observed decline in well-being.’