Teens, tech and mental health: Oxford study finds no link

2 young people on phonesImage source, Getty Images

There remains "little association" between technology use and mental-health problems, a study of more than 430,000 10 to 15-year-olds suggests.

The Oxford Internet Institute compared TV viewing, social-media and device use with feelings of depression, suicidal tendencies and behavioural problems.

It found a small drop in association between depression and social-media use and TV viewing, from 1991 to 2019,

There was a small rise in that between emotional issues and social-media use.

Happy people

"We couldn't tell the difference between social-media impact and mental health in 2010 and 2019," study co-author Prof Andrew Przybylski. said.

"We're not saying that fewer happy people use more social media.

"We're saying that the connection is not getting stronger."

And this was a warning to regulators and lawmakers focusing on commonly held beliefs about the harmful effects of technology on young people's mental health.

'Negative well-being'

Participants, in the US and UK, graded their own feelings using set questions with sliding scale responses.

And they were asked about the duration of social-media or device activity but not more specifically how they had spent that time.

The paper is published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

In January 2021, a study suggested heavy social-media use was linked to negative well-being and self-esteem among teenagers.

Other factors affecting young people's mental health include the coronavirus pandemic.

And the UK government has announced a £500m investment in mental-health services, with £79m earmarked for children and young people.