Evidence Lacking for Sweeping Social Media Panic


In the Media

Harrison Griffiths writes for CapX

In the Media

Matthew Lesh writes for The Telegraph

Matthew Lesh writes for City AM

IEA Director of Public Policy and Communications Matthew Lesh has written in City AM discussing social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s popular new book The Anxious Generation, which argues, among other things, that social media use is responsible in large part for a stark decline in youth mental health.

Matthew wrote:

“In a review of The Anxious Generation in Nature magazine, psychology professor Candice Odgers warns that assertions about social media driving an epidemic of mental illness are ‘not supported by science’. Odgers says that research consistently finds a ‘mix of no, small and mixed associations’. Many studies find correlation rather than proven causation. It’s quite possible that young people who use social media in an unhealthy manner already have mental health problems.

“One such study that sought to review the reviews (that is, analyse metastudies in the field) found that the claimed links between social media and mental health are ‘weak’ or ‘inconsistent’. One such review, from Amy Orben of the University of Cambridge, found links in both directions and claimed negative associations are at best ‘very small’. One study, for example, found that wearing glasses negatively impacted youth mental health more than screen time.

“If the internet has a big negative impact, we expect to see worsening mental health globally. But that’s not the case…On this front, there has been a clear increase in teen suicide over the last decade in the United States, but elsewhere, including the United Kingdom, teen suicide rates remain low or stable.”

Read Matthew’s full piece here.