Teen girls who spend hours a day on social media appear to have a higher risk of suicide as they enter adulthood, according to a 10-year study of the subject. Researchers at Brigham Young University say the risk seems to be greatest for girls who spend two to three hours a day on social media beginning about age 13 and "greatly increase" use over their teen years, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The same risk was not as pronounced in boys, per a BYU news release. The takeaway for parents is not that they should try to keep all social media apps off limits, says lead researcher Sarah Coyne. "Thirteen is not a bad age to begin social media," she says, noting that her own 13-year-old daughter recently joined TikTok. But parents should set limits and even maintain access to their kids' accounts, at least at first.
"We try to keep her at a limit of 15-20 minutes a day, to keep her far away from that two to three hours which indicates the clinical levels of suicide risk," Coyne tells KSL. Her team concluded that 13-year-old girls are "probably not developmentally ready" to handle the "dark underbelly" of social media for long stretches, especially without supervision. They also advised against passive scrolling, suggesting the girls log on for a specific reason or to actively participate. While the risk wasn't the same with boys, the researchers did see a correlation among those who were heavy users of video games if the game-playing led to cyberbullying. The study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, which researchers say is the largest of its kind, tracked the social media use and mental health of 500 teens from 2009 to 2019. (The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.)