Using Social Media At Night: Lights Out Or Phone Out?

Using Social Media At Night Lights Out Or Phone OutFacebook for many of us is a large time filler, entertainer and connector to the outside world. There are many positives Facebook brings; including connecting distant friends and family, and sharing thoughts, videos, pictures and experiences with those you might not otherwise have the chance to. But how much time should we really allow for ? What are the mental effects it has on society, especially the younger generations?

Recent studies have shown that school children using social media at night, to heavy extents, are at an increasing risk of depression and anxiety.

In this post we will explore the ways in which this can be prevented and whose responsibility this is, the social networks or the child’s guardian, to prevent harm from coming to younger users.

Recent Study Into Social Media Effects On Students

Doctor Heather Cleland Woods ran a study on 460 teenagers at a school in Scotland. As part of a study by Glasgow University, the students were questioned on their use of social media, looking closely at their evening habits. Results focusing on Facebook and Twitter were paid close attention to and revealed some interesting results. The study found children, as young as 11-years-old, are using the sites considerably.

Dr Woods’ study suggests that heavy use of social media may have a detrimental effect on a child’s well-being. A question Dr Woods asks is whether school children are turning to social media when they can’t sleep? Or can they not sleep because they’re on social media? A good night’s sleep is important to everyone’s development, and with school years being a very stressful time in any young person’s life, the argument is put that these outlets for kids to turn to, instead of sleep, may be having a negative effect on their development and health.

According to The Guardian; Woods, presenting a paper at a British Psychological Society conference in Manchester on Friday, said: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.

“It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and well-being, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear.”

Woods went on to suggest the concept of a ‘digital-sunset’. The idea is that as the sun sets before bed-time, so should our devices. This will free up time to wind down before sleeping, and prevent disturbances during sleep.

Where Does The Responsibility Lie?

We want to pose the question; do social media networks have an obligation to their user’s health? If so, could the idea of a curfew being placed on age related users be suggested? Should social media networks be putting health warnings on for young individuals? Having said this, if the use of social media can’t be proven to have a negative effect on mental health, is all this speculation unfair? Even if younger users can’t access social media sites, who is to say they won’t still go on other social platforms until the early hours?

On the flip side, if students are struggling from sleep deprivation, but are turning to social media for consolation this may have an even more negative affect. What needs to be understood here is what support should be put in place and by whom?

Our ideas for support include the following:

Parental Control

Just as many websites, such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, have a parental control option this could be applied to social media sites.

Online Induction

When signing up for a social network there could be a personalised introduction implemented according to age. This could include Facebook’s advice for younger users and how to stay happy and healthy using their site.

Automated Access Shut-Off

When the user is under a certain age, the site automatically prevents them from logging in after a specific time.

Campaigns in Schools

Further support and awareness, via a mixture of talks, presentations and marketing, would be useful for digital education within secondary schools.

Stuart from our marketing and eCommerce team has this to say:

“The social networks themselves have to be stricter with who they let join and how much care is taken in monitoring what is being post. With the suggestion of shutting down access at a certain time to age groups, there is the potential risk that people will lie about their age, kids will ignore advice given to them and parental controls can always be turned off. There is no easy solution, but it has to be a concentrated effort that covers all bases.”

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts.