Support the #Respect4SocialWork campaign today and celebrate the social work profession.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Research: Teens’ engagement with technology ‘does not increase mental health problems’

There is little evidence to suggest that teenagers’ engagement with technology affects their mental health, a study by Oxford University researchers found.

The Oxford Internet Institute study explored the links between social media use and depression, emotional problems and conduct problems among 10-15 year-olds. Researchers also examined the associations between television viewing and suicidality as well as depression, emotional problems and conduct problems. In addition, the study explored digital device use and suicidality.

“There is therefore little evidence for increases in the associations between adolescents’ technology engagement and mental health. Information about new digital media has been collected for a relatively short time; drawing firm conclusions about changes in their associations with mental health may be premature. We urge transparent and credible collaborations between scientists and technology companies,” the report said.

Data from over 430,000 adolescents in the UK and US was examined to investigate how associations between adolescents’ technology use and mental health have changed over the past 30 years.

Over the eight associations studied, only three indicated some change over time:

- Social media use and television viewing had become less strongly associated with depression.

- Social media’s association with emotional problems had increased. The observed changes over time were, however, small. 

- Consistent changes in technology engagement’s associations with conduct problems or suicidality were not detected.

- The suggestion that technologies we worry the most about now (such as smartphones) are becoming more harmful was not consistently supported in the data analysed by the research team.

However, the study highlighted a lack of long enough time frames and high enough resolution and detail in technology engagement data as key factors in hindering scientists’ ability to conclusively determine technologies’ associations to mental health, or potential changes.

Available data on technology engagement, which was used in this study, relies on self-reporting on things like time spent using screens, which has been found inaccurate. The authors suggest an urgent need for more credible and transparent collaborations between technology companies and independent scientists, to enable a robust study of life in the digital age.

Lead author Dr Matti Vuorre, a post-doctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, said: “If we want to understand the relationship between tech and wellbeing today, we need to first go back and look at historic data – as far back as when parents were concerned too much TV would give their kids square eyes – in order to bring the contemporary concerns we have about newer technologies into focus.”

Senior author Professor Andy Przybylski, Director of Research, Oxford Internet Institute added: “As more data accumulates on adolescents’ use of emerging technologies, our knowledge of them and their effects on mental health will become more precise. So it’s too soon to draw firm conclusions about the increasing, or declining, associations between social media and adolescent mental health, and it is certainly way too soon to be making policy or regulation on this basis.

“We need more transparent and credible collaborations between scientists and technology companies to unlock the answers. The data exists within the tech industry, scientists just need to be able to access it for neutral and independent investigation,” he added.

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet.

There Is No Evidence That Associations Between Adolescents’ Digital Technology Engagement and Mental Health Problems Have Increased



Working Together For Children

Make an enquiry

A multi-disciplinary organisation providing independent, high quality social work, psychological, psychiatric, therapeutic and family support services. Contact us with your requirements and speak to a member of our team who will help you today.
Make an Enquiry

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

Specialist residential schools to be investigated by Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel

25/01/2022

Three specialist residential schools in Doncaster are to be investigated by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.

Annie Hudson

Fullerton House, Wilsic Hall and Wheatley House specialist, independent residential schools are to be subjected to a national investigation by the Panel following allegations of abuse.

Annie Hudson, Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, outlined plans [...]

Read Full Story

MPs: Draft Online Safety Bill is not clear or robust enough

25/01/2022

The government’s draft Online Safety Bill in its current form is neither clear nor robust enough to tackle certain types of illegal and harmful content on user-to-user and search services, MPs have warned.

The Digital, Culture Media and Sports committee is urging the government to address types of content that are technically legal by [...]

Read Full Story

Trauma Informed Care varies widely across children’s social care

24/01/2022

Trauma informed activities rarely lead to evidence-based treatments, a study by the Early Intervention Foundation has found.

Trauma Informed Care practice varied widely across children’s social care services, with no two teams offering the same components, or attending the same training. Furthermore, the study found that TIC activities rarely led to evidence-based treatments but were [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
Delivering a diverse, reliable range of services to children and their families across the UK
D1, Parkside, Knowledge Gateway, Nesfield Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 3ZL
Contact Us
WP Quality Assured

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

closechevron-downbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram