Scientists: Social Media Effects on Kids 'Trivial'

John Lister's picture

A University of Oxford study claims any negative effects of social media on teens are likely trivial. It said other life events had a far greater effect.

The study used data from extensive household surveys that ran between 2009 and 2016 which covered a wide range of issues. The researchers mined the survey results for responses from children who were aged 10 to 15 at the time of questioning, with more than 12,000 children covered. (Source:

The researchers looked at questions about how many hours the children spent communicating on social networks on school days. They compared this with a variety of questions about how satisfied they were with their lives.

Cause And Effect Uncertain

Overall the results did find that kids who used social media more were less satisfied with their life, but two factors limited how important the results were.

Firstly, the relationship between the two factors was minimal, to the point that the researchers called the effects "tiny - arguably trivial" and in most cases "not statistically significant."

Secondly, the researchers couldn't rule out the idea that children who were dissatisfied with their lives were more likely to use social media extensively, rather than the other way round. (Source:

Another note of caution was that the survey relied on the teens giving accurate answers of how long they spent on social media rather than it being objectively measured. The researchers said this wasn't ideal, but that such surveys were still the best available large-scale data on the subject.

Pattern Could Be Stronger In Girls

The researchers didn't completely dismiss any links between social media and life satisfaction. They noted that the two factors were more closely related among girls than boys and that there might be a small but meaningful connection if you isolated the female responses.

Looking forward, the researchers said scientists, politicians and the tech industry should work more closely in studying the possible effects of social media, sharing data and avoiding bias. They specifically called for social media companies to share more detail and data about how people use their services.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised by the results - or the lack of them? Do you believe social media use can affect wellbeing? Should social media companies be more open with their data for such research?

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bluecardinal1_5931's picture

File this study in the "circular file" immediately. Methodology and control both appear weak, but if it sparks serious investigation there may be a useful outcome yet.

i.e. Cyberbullying in particular, is a real and present danger to teens and does not appear to have been considered at all.

buzzallnight's picture

We don't care whether kids are satisfied with their life,
we care if we are satisfied with the kids and we are not!!!!!

They never look up from their smart phones, in some places they have installed leds in the crosswalks so kids don't get hit by cars because they don't look up from their phones when crossing streets!!!!!!!!!!!

It is possible to learn a lot of stuff from the internet
but kids look at memes and facebook and snapchat and instagram
all day and don't learn anything.

You read in the news how Russia may have influenced our last election.
Russia only influenced STUPID PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!on their smart phones all day.

It is possible that humans will only have vestigial legs like whales in one generation because of smart phones.

If you still use a computer online you have noticed that all online software has been dumbed down and screwed up to work with smart phones.

I called the electric company because they screwed up the online payment system
and they said
"we didn't know anybody still used computers to pay their bill"

I sh*t you not!!!!!!!!!!

I don't think there is anyway to fix it though, I think it is already over,
turns out evolution works both ways.....

davolente_10330's picture

How can they possibly say that? Here in the UK, both mobile phones and so-called social media are disrupting kids' brains so much, they look as if they're turning into zombies on the streets of my town. They shuffle along, staring at their phones, with no other purpose in life (or so it seems), completely oblivious to what's happening around them, to the extent that I have lost track of the number that have walked out in front of my car without so much as a cursory glance to check that they are not in danger of adding to the extinct gene pool. One particular couple that comes to mind were very lucky that they didn't meet up with a sticky end. When admonished, all I got for my trouble (despite them being clearly at fault) was a couple of hand signals that you won't find in the UK highway code and a load of abuse. A definite attitude problem. I suspect their phones will have to be surgically removed one day.