Every generation has its folk devil – the one thing that is apparently going to corrupt and destroy “the young people”. The hula hoop, radio, Hollywood, TV, rock ’n’ roll, Cabbage Patch Kids (maybe), acid house, computer games. On and on the list will roll. The current one (apart from Fortnite) is social media.
But a study by the University Of Oxford into wellbeing, based on 12,000 adolescents in the UK, suggests that social media’s impact here is “tiny”. It placed the “analogue” categories like school, friends and family as having more much impact on their lives. Same as it ever was.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute who conducted the study, told the BBC, “99.75% of a person’s life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media […] Parents shouldn’t worry about time on social media – thinking about it that way is wrong.” He adds that the metric of screen time is unhelpful in understanding what is going on here. The next step in the research is to meet with social media companies to get data on how (rather than how long) young people are using apps. The researchers also added they need to identify young users who are most at risk from certain aspects of social media and look at the macro factors, not just those related to social media, impacting on their wellbeing.