The prevalence and impact of social media addiction in adolescents

adolescent social media addiction

A study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE revealed that problematic social media use is a very real complication among adolescents.

European researchers sampled 5,961 participants ages 15 to 22 and found that 4.5 percent of them belonged to an at-risk group, which was also characterized by symptoms of depression, low self-esteem and higher use of social media websites. They concluded that teenagers who are at risk of problematic use of social media should be identified and helped by school-based programs focused on intervention and prevention.

Previous research has shown a correlation between excessive social media use and a negative effect on the personal, social and professional lives of users. For example, a 2012 study showed that obsessive use of Facebook resulted in troubles at work, school and interpersonal relationships.

The prevalence and extent of problematic social media use have varied in previous studies. Some researchers pegged a prevalence rate of 2.8 percent among college students, while others reported that 47 percent of sampled college students were addicted to Facebook.

Data for the PLOS ONE study was collected in March 2015 from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, which included an adolescent sample from Hungary. Participants were asked several questions related to socio-demographics and weekly social media use. Their responses were then weighed on the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale, adapted from Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale, the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale and the Center for Epidemiological Studies’ Depression Scale.

Researchers found that the mean duration of weekly social media use was 23.16 hours. Among the participants, the mean duration for females was 25.71 hours per week and 20.53 hours for males, researchers stated. Participants were separated into three groups — no risk, low risk, and at risk — based on their scores on the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale.

Several observations were made about participants who were considered at risk: they had elevated levels of withdrawal and tolerance compared to the other groups, were likely to be female, spent more than… (continue reading)