University of Portsmouth to look at social media’s effects on children

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HOW social media helps or harms children’s mental health is to be examined by experts.

The Universities of Portsmouth and Sheffield are carrying out the long-term study on thousands of 10 to 15-year-olds.

Professor Liz Twigg, from Portsmouth’s department of geography, has been awarded funding from the charity MQ.

Funding was given against a rise in mental illness in young people.

The results are expected to give the first indication of the effect of social media on the generation brought up with it, and will be used to give clinicians and mental health workers guidelines.

Professor Twigg said: ‘Poor mental health among children is on the rise and it’s unclear whether social media is implicated or is helping.

‘A snapshot of some children who are suffering mental illness at any one time isn’t enough – we need to be able to see the long-term effects of a lot of factors in their lives.

‘It may be that online friendships are a great help in protecting some children, or that social media communities help some children develop resilience to stress.’

The researchers will use Understanding Society, a dataset which from 2009 has gathered details of young people’s living situations including their sense of happiness and their parents’ mental health and socio-economic status.