In a saddening echo of every time my parents ever told me I’d be happier if I got off the internet and hung out with real people, a new study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found even an hour a day on social media can make teens markedly less happy. “Spending one hour a day chatting on social networks reduces the probability of being completely satisfied with life overall by approximately 14 percentage points,” the study concludes regarding kids ages 10 to 15. (Note: The study was conducted solely on British children.)
As for reasons why the cyberworld can be bad for kids, the study points to three substantial causes: “social comparisons,” “finite resources,” and “cyberbullying.” Broken down, the first two mean, unsurprisingly, that kids are negatively impacted when they see the seemingly richer, better, and potentially unattainable lifestyles of others online. And at this point, it’s pretty self-explanatory why cyberbullying is bad. The study also found that girls are more likely to be affected, and “in particular feel less happy with their appearance and school attended the more time they spend chatting on social networks.” In case being a teenage girl wasn’t hard enough already.
The study also explains that social isn’t all bad when it comes to teens, noting that chatting with people online can lead to increased empathy. But then again, it also explains that the social-media-induced decrease in life satisfaction for teens has a statistically bigger impact than skipping school or living in a single-parent household. So, basically, if you’re the parent of an unhappy teen — or you are an unhappy teen — consider deleting your accounts. Or at least consider deleting one of your accounts. (Start with Twitter! Or Facebook! Or Instagram!) You might be a few percentage points happier for it.