Girls who use the Internet a lot in early adolescence are more likely to be depressed later in adolescence, according to a new Canadian study. The same link was not found for boys.
In a new Canadian study published in the Cambridge University Press journal Psychological Medicine, researchers from the University of Sherbrooke examined the extent to which young people’s use of digital media may contribute to poorer mental health, or vice versa.
The study used data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD), which includes 2,837 children born in Quebec, focusing on 1,547 children aged 13, 15 and 17 between 2011 and 2015. Their Internet use was monitored weekly and they were asked to report on their well-being.
The researchers found that girls generally experienced more depressive symptoms than boys, and they also used the internet more than boys at age 15, but at other ages the boys were relatively similar in this regard. Girls who used the Internet more at age 13 often had more depressive symptoms at ages 15 and 17. The researchers argue that there is a clear connection between the fact that the more girls used the Internet, the more depressed they were in their later teens.
However, depressive symptoms and Internet use at age 13 were not associated with depression at age 15 for boys. Depressive symptoms at age 15 were associated with depression at age 17 for boys, and the same was true for Internet use. Overall, the data suggest that depressive symptoms and Internet habits in boys show some stability between the latter two ages, although they do not rule out the possibility of a similar association in boys.
Previous studies have also shown that social media, when used extensively, affects young people’s brains, especially in terms of social rewards and punishments. Researchers have strongly warned that excessive use of social media can be both compulsive and addictive for young people.