Is social media use associated with children's well-being? Results from the UK Household Longitudinal Study

Liz Twigg, Craig Duncan, Scott Weich

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Introduction - There are concerns about young people's increasing use of social media and the effects this has on overall life satisfaction. Establishing the significance of social media use requires researchers to take simultaneous account of other factors that might be influential and it is essential to adopt a longitudinal perspective to investigate temporal patterns.

Method - Measures of happiness for children aged 10–15 from 7 waves of the UK Household Longitudinal Study were examined (n = 7596). Multilevel models were used to assess the relative association between these measures, children's social media use and individual, household and community characteristics.

Results - High use of social media was found to be significantly associated with change in happiness scores but was not associated with worsening life satisfaction trajectories. The most consistent factor was gender, with girls experiencing the largest decline in happiness between two time points (0.18 points) and being more likely to have a worsening trajectory over time (OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.36–2.32). Parental mental health, household support and household income were also important.

Conclusion - Moderate use of social media does not play an important role in shaping children's life satisfaction. Higher levels of use is associated with lower levels of happiness, especially for girls but more research is needed to understand how this technology is being used. As well as focusing on high levels of social media use, policy makers should also concentrate on particular demographic groupings and factors affecting the social fabric of the households in which children grow up.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-83
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Early online date18 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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