Study: 'extreme' Internet use among teens may be harmful to mental health

A new study coming out the UK has found an association between 'extreme' Internet and, specifically, social media usage among teens and instances of mental health problems. Though the study doesn't conclude that excessive Internet usage may be the cause of the observed mental issues and decreased life satisfaction, the fact stands that spending many hours online is often associated with some type of life dissatisfaction.

The study was released by the Education Policy Institute, and it seeks to evaluate mental health in kids and teenagers. One section specifically focuses on Internet and social media usage and its correlation with mental issues, finding that kids and teens who spend three or more hours online on a school day are more than twice as likely to report having mental health issues.

Overall, the study defined extreme Internet users as those who use the Internet for six or more hours outside of school hours on an average weekend day. The UK has the highest number of youth who report this level of usage, with the second highest being Chile. Among them, the majority report using the Internet and social media in private, such as in a bedroom, and the majority report using a smartphone every day of the week.

While moderate usage among kids and teens resulted in 6.7% saying they were experiencing bullying online, 17.8% of 'extreme' users reported having the same bullying experience. As well, extreme youthful Internet users reported having lower life satisfaction than those who use it moderately or less, rating their life satisfaction at only 6.59/10 (versus a moderate user's 7.4/10). Of course, this doesn't mean that social media and Internet are inherently harmful — the study notes many benefits that both provide.

Still, the study indicates that excessive Internet usage among kids and teens should be addressed; even if the usage isn't directly causing harm, it could indicate ongoing issues in the home or elsewhere in the youth's life.

SOURCE: Education Policy Institute