Frequent Use of Social Networking Sites Is Associated with Poor Psychological Functioning Among Children and Adolescents

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2015 Jul;18(7):380-5. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0055.


Social networking sites (SNSs) have gained substantial popularity among youth in recent years. However, the relationship between the use of these Web-based platforms and mental health problems in children and adolescents is unclear. This study investigated the association between time spent on SNSs and unmet need for mental health support, poor self-rated mental health, and reports of psychological distress and suicidal ideation in a representative sample of middle and high school children in Ottawa, Canada. Data for this study were based on 753 students (55% female; Mage=14.1 years) in grades 7-12 derived from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine the associations between mental health variables and time spent using SNSs. Overall, 25.2% of students reported using SNSs for more than 2 hours every day, 54.3% reported using SNSs for 2 hours or less every day, and 20.5% reported infrequent or no use of SNSs. Students who reported unmet need for mental health support were more likely to report using SNSs for more than 2 hours every day than those with no identified unmet need for mental health support. Daily SNS use of more than 2 hours was also independently associated with poor self-rating of mental health and experiences of high levels of psychological distress and suicidal ideation. The findings suggest that students with poor mental health may be greater users of SNSs. These results indicate an opportunity to enhance the presence of health service providers on SNSs in order to provide support to youth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Networking*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicidal Ideation