Almost half of teens feel addicted to social media: University of Cambridge

According to an analysis conducted by the University of Cambridge, nearly half of teenagers report feeling addicted to social media.

The preliminary results from an ongoing study at the university were characterized as “striking,” suggesting that for some individuals, their connection with social media might be comparable to a behavioral addiction.

The Cambridge team is analyzing data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is being carried out by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the University of London.

It follows the lives of more than 18,000 babies born in the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2001 to map the backgrounds of children born in the early 21st century.

Cambridge researchers found that 48% of 7,022 people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I think I am addicted to social media.”

The data was collected between January 2018 and March 2019, when the cohort was 17 years old.

The total who answered that they feel addicted included a higher proportion of girls (57%) compared to boys (37%).

University of Cambridge graduate student Georgia Turner, who led the analysis, said: “We’re not saying the people who say they feel addicted are addicted. But it’s not nice to feel you don’t have agency over your behavior, so it’s quite striking that so many people feel like that.”

Turner added that research that assumes “so-called social media addiction” could follow the same framework as drug addiction “is likely to be over-simplistic.

“It could be that, for some, their relationship with social media is akin to a behavioral addiction,” she said.

“But for others, their use could be driven by compulsive checking; others may be relying on it to cope with negative life experiences, and others may simply be responding to negative social perceptions about ‘wasting time’ on social media.

“There may be different pathways to thinking you are addicted, rather than everyone feeling they’re addicted in the same way.

“This is important not just for a philosophical discussion about addiction but to find appropriate interventions where needed. If addiction isn’t what’s causing someone’s problems, an addiction-based intervention may not help them.”

Turner’s work is ongoing and has not been peer-reviewed or published formally.

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