Excessive use of smartphones and social media may be associated with mental distress, and suicide risk among adolescents, according to a review of studies.
The review, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, focussed on smartphone use, and did not consider online gaming.
“Physicians, teachers and families need to work together with youth to decrease possible harmful effects of smartphones and social media on their relationships, sense of self, sleep, academic performance, and emotional well-being,” said Elia Abi-Jaoude from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Canada.
The analysis by researchers, including those from Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, contains guidance for physicians, parents and teachers on how to help teens manage smartphone and social media use.
The researchers said the finding should be among the factors considered by clinicians and researchers who work in the field of youth mental health.
“Given the importance of engaging youth in mitigating potential harms from social media, a prohibitionist approach would be counterproductive,” the researchers said in a statement.
“For adolescents today, who have not known a world without social media, digital interactions are the norm,” they said.
However, the statement did not explain how many studies were involved in the review.
The researchers noted that potential benefits of online access to productive mental health information as well as low barriers to resources such as internet-based talking therapies cannot be discounted.
These also include media literacy, creativity, self-expression, sense of belonging, and civic engagement, they said.
A recent poll from the US indicates that 54 per cent of teens think they spend too much time on their smartphones, and about half said they were cutting back on usage, the researchers said.
“Encouragingly, youth are increasingly recognising the negative impact of social media on their lives and starting to take steps to mitigate it,” they said.