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Social Media and Technology Is Linked to Higher Depression Rates in Girls, According to Study

Between school, parents, and peers, being a teenager has never been an easy part of life. Teens today arguably have an added level of scrutiny and pressure to navigate because of the ever-growing presences of technology and social media. Whereas teens of the past could find some escape from whatever was going on in their school lives after the final bell rang, that just carries over with the prevalence of texting and social media. And the more time a teen spends with their phone or tablet in hand, the more likely they are to be depressed and lack self-confidence -- particularly adolescent girls, says a new study.

Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX), a non-profit, focused on helping young girls prepare for success in adulthood, conducted a study of nearly 11,000 girls and found that those who spend eight or more hours a day using technology were five times more likely to feel depressed or sad, almost every day. These girls were also less likely to be involved in any sort of extracurricular activity, such as sports, band, or youth clubs.

The study noted that confidence in adolescent girls declines by 25 percent during the middle school years from roughly 86 to 60 percent, hitting its lowest point around ninth grade. While some of this can be attributed to a girl’s changing body and the awkwardness of puberty, it’s heightened by messages from social media and technology. Girls who spent the most time using technology and social media were 24 times more likely to want to change their physical appearance than those who spent fewer than four hours a day with technology, said researchers.

The amount of time spent on social media was also found to have a direct negative correlation with the relationships girls had with one another. Participants in the study reported that by the time they reached high school, 86 percent felt they were in competition with their peers. Additionally, the amount of time spent on social media was found to heighten the perception of distrust in girls' relationships with one another. Fifty-seven percent of girls who spent more than eight hours a day on social media reported that they could not trust other girls, versus only 37 percent of girls who spent less than four hours a day on social media feeling a level of distrust towards other girls.

When it came to school and how girls perceived themselves and their relationships with educators, researchers found that life was no less complicated. While girls’ enthusiasm for school dropped off after fifth grade, those who felt they had supportive and encouraging teachers were found to enjoy school more and have a higher level of confidence.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said that their teachers treated them like they were smart with 45 percent of high school-aged girls saying they were considering a career in math or science. Despite this, 46 percent of high school girls also said they didn’t feel that they were smart enough for their “dream career.”

Students use of social media was also found to have an overall negative impact on their enthusiasm for attending school. Among girls who spent less than four hours a day on social media, 71 percent reported that they like coming to school, versus just 50 percent of those who spent more than eight hours a day on social media.

Girls surveyed by ROX attended mostly public schools (88 percent) with 58 percent living in suburban areas, versus 24 percent rural and 18 percent urban. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed were of white ethnicity.

While being a teenager is never going to be easy, researchers stressed the need for encouraging meaningful relationships between girls and in-person social engagement to help combat the negative feelings of peer pressure and competition.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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