Teens from disadvantaged backgrounds are more addicted to social media

Social networks are fundamental to the lives of adolescents. In the United States, according to 2022 figures from the Pew Research Center, 67% of young people aged 13-17 are on the TikTok network, 62% on Instagram, 59% on Snapchat… However, how do you explain that some become more addicted? what others in your accounts? Addicted to the point of developing “problematic social media use” (PSMU). This name, not officially recognized as a behavioral addiction by the World Health Organization (WHO), designates “problems in school and social functioning with characteristics bordering on addiction: mood swings, conflict, relapse, deception…” Can certain socioeconomic determinants be involved? This is the question being asked by an international team of researchers in psychology and social sciences from the universities of Padua (Italy), McGill, Montreal (Canada), Utrecht (Netherlands), Jyväskylä (Finland) and Kinneret Academic College on the Sea. of Galilee (Israel).

“We started from the abundant literature on the negative consequences of socioeconomic inequalities on the physical and mental health of adolescents and wanted to test whether the use of social networks was a risk factor.explains Michela Lenzi, from the University of Padua (Italy). Considering that peer-to-peer social comparison is very common online, we wanted to specifically assess whether being exposed to highly unequal contexts (school and country) increases the likelihood of using these networks in problematic ways. »

To gather a large sample, the researchers used a WHO study, “Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC),” conducted every four years in Europe and Canada. Their research based on the analysis, in 2017 and 2018, of 179,049 children aged 11 to 15 who attended school in 40 countries, was published on September 7 in Information, communication and society.

First test, adolescents had to answer, under the supervision of a teacher, questions such as: “During the past year, have you…regularly found that you can’t think of anything other than when you can use social media again?…tried to spend less time on social media, but without success? …regularly neglected other activities (for example, hobbies, sports…) because you wanted to use social networks?, etc., lists Michela Lenzi. Any youth who answered yes to six of these questions was identified as affected by MUSP. » This was the case for an average of 7.2% of the approximately 180,000 young people surveyed..

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