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August 29, 2016

Social media is damaging UK teenagers, study finds

A New study by the British government has discovered the mental well-being of the country's teenage girls has deteriorated.

The survey, which included 30,000 14-year-old students in 2005 and 2014, showed 37 percent of girls with psychological stress, up from 34 percent in 2005. British boys' stress level was actually seen to fall over the same time period, from 17 percent to 15 percent. The report’s authors pointed out the “advent of the social media age” could be a major contributing factor for increased stress among teenage British girls.

“The adolescent years are a time of rapid physical, cognitive and emotional development,” Pam Ramsden, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Bradford  in the United Kingdom, wrote in a recent blog post. “Teenagers interact with people in order to learn how to become competent adults. In the past, they would engage with parents, teachers and other adults in their community as well as extended family members and friends. Now we can also add social media to that list of social and emotional development.”

Effects on the Changing Brain

Throughout adolescence, girls and boys develop characteristics like confidence and self-control. Since teenage brains have not completely developed, teens don't have the cognitive awareness and impulse control to keep from posting inappropriate content. Furthermore, this content can easily be circulated far and wide with disastrous implications.

Social media can also feed into girls’ insecurities about their appearance, Ramsden said. These sites are often filled with images of people with body type unattainable to the normal person. However, these images and the messages tied to them creep into societal standards.

“Social media allows girls to make comparisons among friends as well as celebrities and then provides them with ‘solutions’ such as extreme dieting tips and workouts to reach their goals,” Ramsden said. “Concerns about body image can negatively impact their quality of life preventing them from having healthy relationships and taking up time that could be better spent developing other aspects of their personalities.”

The British psychologist also noted that social media can pressure young girls into objectifying themselves and becoming sexually active before they are emotionally able to handle it.

“Adolescent girls have a tendency to obsess over the mundane, going over and over actions and thoughts because they are attempting to assimilate and process the information,” Ramsden said. “This is healthy, but research is finding that when it is combined with social media it can intensify into an unhealthy activity and become a precursor to depression and depressive symptoms.

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