Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Time limits on social media

20 March 2018

Girls who spend a lot of time on social media may become less happy and have increased social and emotional problems as they move into adolescence.

Time limits on social media 2 That's according to new findings from research looking at age trends for social media use for 10-15 year-old boys and girls in the UK.

Researchers at the University of Essex and the International Centre for Lifecourse Studies at UCL found an association between increased time spent on social media in early adolescence (age 10) and reduced wellbeing in later adolescence (age 10-15) - but only among girls. 

The research byfound that adolescent girls used social media more than boys. At age 13, about a half of girls were interacting on social media for more than 1 hour per day, compared to just one third of boys. By age 15, both genders increased their social media use but girls continued to use social media more than boys, with 59% of girls and 46% of boys interacting on social media for one or more hours per day. 

The study used data from the youth panel of the UK Household Panel Study - a large national survey which interviews all members of a household annually, from 2009 - 2015. 

Commenting on the research, Cara Booker said: "Our findings add weight to recent calls for the technology industry to look at in-built time limits. Young people need access to the internet for homework, for watching TV and to keep in touch with their friends of course, but a body of evidence is emerging to show that substantial amounts of time spent chatting, sharing, liking and comparing on social media on school days is far from beneficial especially for girls."

  • Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK is research by Cara Booker (Essex), Yvonne Kelly (UCL) and Amanda Sacker (UCL) and is published in BMC Public Health
  • Read a blog by Cara Booker about the research on the ICLS Child of our Time blog