Social media use and emotional and behavioural outcomes in adolescence: Evidence from British longitudinal data

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Economics and Human Biology


We investigate the relationship between social media use and emotional and behavioural outcomes in adolescence using data from a large and detailed longitudinal study of teenagers from the UK. We use individual fixed effects, propensity score matching and treatment effects with Inverse Probability Weighted Regression Adjustment, controlling for a rich set of children's and family's characteristics and using comprehensive sensitivity analyses and tests to assess the potential role of unobserved variables. Our results show that prolonged use of social media (more than 4 hours per day) is significantly associated with poor emotional health and increased behavioural difficulties, and in particular decreased perception of self-value and increased incidence of hyperactivity, inattention and conduct problems. However, limited use of social media (less than 3 h per day) compared to no use has some moderate association with positive peer relationships.

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