100,000 German teenagers addicted to social media, study finds | News | DW | 01.03.2018
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100,000 German teenagers addicted to social media, study finds

Teenagers aged 12 to 17 years spent too much time on social media, which affects their wellbeing. A German study reveals that excessive use can even be linked to depression.

Some 2.6 percent of German youths aged between 12 and 17 are addicted to social media apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat, a representative study by German health insurance firm DAK found. The percentage is the equivalent of 100,000 young people in Germany, according to the study.

Read more: Smartphone addiction messes up brain chemistry 

Key findings:

  • Overall, teenagers aged between 12 and 17 spend 2.5 hours on social media per day. For girls the figure is even higher at 3.5 hours.
  • Of them, 3.4 percent of girls and 1.9 percent of boys were found to be addicted to social media.
  • The older they get, the more time they spend on social media
  • Excessive use can lead to a host of issues such as lack of sleep, apathy and a sense of disconnect when not using the apps.
  • The study establishes a correlation between social media use and depression: one in three teenagers diagnosed with Social Media Disorder shows signs of depression.
  • Parents are often unsure about how and to what extent they should limit their children's exposure to social media.

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Risk of depression

"We have shown that there is clearly a higher risk of developing depression if you're addicted," Andreas Storm, DAK board member, told German public television.

Read more: More German students suffer from depression, panic attacks

The researchers point out, however, that it is still unclear if there is a causal relationship or if those youths who are prone to depression simply spend more time on social media, which can exacerbate or trigger the condition.

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What can be done about it?

The study stresses that social media use per se is not to be discouraged, but that parents must find a way to limit their children's exposure to establish a "stable online-offline balance," Storm says.

Read more: EU : Facebook, Twitter still in violation of bloc's consumer law

The study's authors call on the government to boost digital education in school curriculums with a particular focus on social media and the opportunities and risks associated with usage.

The DAK, which is one of Germany's biggest statutory insurers with 5.8 million members, also wants more training for parents, teachers and other educators to help them to make children media savvy.

The study was conducted by the Forsa Institute and the DAK in association with the German Center for Addiction Research in Childhood and Adolescence (UKE) in Hamburg, polling 1,001 youths.

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