More than half of all teenagers 17 years and under access social media 15 minutes before going to bed, every day of the week, and are reporting significant difficulties relaxing or sleeping as a result.
As well, 37 per cent access it within 15 minutes of waking up. One in four Australian teenagers use social media while having breakfast and lunch.
The fifth annual National Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey by Psychology Australia, released this week, has looked at the impacts of social media for the first time.
The survey found that the less time teenagers spend on social media, the less likely they are to feel burnt out by it.
The phenomenon known as FOMO (the fear of missing out) is far more common amongst heavy than light users of social media. A classic example is someone happily at home watching television when they check Facebook, only to see images of their friends out clubbing and instantly feel like they are missing out.
Study’s key findings
• 66 per cent of the teenagers wanted to share details online when they were having a good time
• 60 per cent said they felt worried when they found out their friends were having fun without them
• 51 per cent said they felt anxious if they did not know what their friends were doing
• 78 per cent said it was important that they understood their friends’ “in jokes”
FOMO is particularly strong among young teenagers. The 18-35 year old cohort also report high levels, but are much more likely to experience positive benefits, including feeling empowered to seek help, enrichment of their professional networks and being motivated to achieve goals.
“If I haven’t checked Facebook every 10 or 15 minutes, or Grindr or Tinder, I feel like I might be missing something,” says Nathan Christopher, 32, a chronic social media user from Sydney.
“I am addicted to it, as are many of my friends. I check my phone within five minutes of waking up. The positives are that it keeps you connected to people, but the negative is it draws you away from old-fashioned socialising, including talking to the people you are actually with.”
Both heavy and light users report that social media helps them connect to like-minded individuals. However, on every other measure, heavy social media users are significantly more likely to be affected by their social media experience. For example, heavy users are more likely to report that they feel uncomfortable when they can’t access their social media accounts.
Fifty-five percent of teens who are heavy users of social media report they fear others are having more rewarding experiences than themselves. Sixty percent worry when they find out friends are having fun without them.
Twenty-five percent of young teenagers report being on social media “constantly”, 12 per cent more than 10 times a day, and 19 per cent between five and 10 times a day.
Adults find it easier to disconnect
In contrast to the nation’s teenagers, most Australian adults never use social media before bed, after waking up, during breakfast, lunch or dinner, or in the company of others.
Of those young teens reporting being constantly on social media, 29 per cent were girls and 21 per cent boys. Generally there is no major differences between male and female teenagers when looking at the effects of FOMO.
However, female teens (60 per cent) are more likely to worry about missing a planned get-together with their friends than male teens (46 per cent).
For teen males, FOMO is consistent across age groups (48 per cent for males aged
13‐15, and 50 per cent for males aged 16‐17). However, as they get older females become more affected by FOMO (38 per cent for females aged 13‐15, and 66 per cent for females aged 16‐17).
On the upside, users of social media reported a number of positive benefits, including stronger relationships and feeling a part of a global community.
Clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller, a spokesman for the Australian Psychological Society, said the results “shouldn’t deter Australians from using social media, but instead encourage individuals to think about how social media use impacts their wellbeing to ensure the positives outweigh the negatives”.