Teenagers who use social networking sites for more than two hours a day are more likely to have feelings of depression, according to a new study.
The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, analysed data collected from 750 students for the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey.
The researchers found a link between heavy social media use and increased likelihood of mental health problems, including psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.
They also concluded that if children are using social networks frequently, it should serve as an indicator to anyone supporting the child that action might be needed.
The study advised that public and mental health bodies should invest more in engaging young people on these platforms in order to address mental health issues more effectively.
Given that youth with poor mental health are spending significant time on social networking sites (SNSs), public health and other service providers may be able to reach a key vulnerable population if they also engage youth on SNSs with health promotion approaches and supports.
While the use of social networking sites alone is not an explanation for the occurrence of mental health problems, the researchers concluded that high amounts of screen time could be part of a complex relationship of factors, including sedentary behaviour.