Almost every parent will agree that their teenage children have become addicted to social media. They live virtually on social media. Oluwatosin Omotoso writes that a recent study revealed that social media has not only affected their psyche and intelligence, it has also affected their stress levels.

For teenagers who love making thousands of friends online especially facebook stand the risk of being stressed out. The study released online last week titled, ‘Having too many Facebook friends stresses teens out,’ said that teens with 300 Facebook friends or more exhibit higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone than their fewer Facebook-friended counterparts.

The study, completed by researchers at the University of Montreal and the Institut Universitaire de santé mentale de Montréal, tested the Facebook habits of a group of 88 participants, all between the ages of 12 and 17. They found that not all behaviours lead to stress. Lead researcher Sonia Lupien explained that they “were able to show that beyond 300 Facebook friends, adolescents showed higher cortisol levels,” adding, “we can, therefore, imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subjected to even greater stress.” But some behaviour, the university explained in a statement can have positive health effects. The research further revealed that teens who are frequent Facebook users may possess excessive anxiety qualities and receive lower grades in school.

According to the study, teens who act in ways that support their Facebook friends, for example, by liking what they posted or sending them words of encouragement decreased their levels of cortisol.

Cortisol, Lupien pointed out can lead to depression down the line, and high levels can negatively affect people in the short term. She explained further what ‘Psychology Today explained back in 2013 that: “Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase the risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.”

A few interactions New Telegraph had with some Nigerian teenagers showed that adults also spend long hours on their smartphones including iPhones, BlackBerrys and Ipads, chatting and sending messages to their friends on facebook, WhatsApp, twitter and others. Social network is meant to help friends stay connected and may boost an individual’s self-esteem.

Olayode Patrick, a high school graduate, during an interview with the New Telegraph, agreed with the study that having too many friends on social media network can cause stress and it wastes time that would have been used for more important things. Adeleye Toluwani, an undergraduate, said having too many Facebook friends can affect sleep hours when trying to satisfy them. Toluwani further said not all chats and messages should be replied. “It’s not every message you reply.”

Reacting to the trend, the principal of a private secondary school, Mr. Monday Babajide said, the time spent on interactions on social media activities takes much of the time in the lives of young people. He, however, advised that teenagers should have good priorities for their activities and have special plans for each day’s activities.

But Dr. Karrie Lager, an international child psychologist said that it’s not as if social is totally bad or negative influence for teens, “In moderation, social media can be a great way for teens to connect to others, to relate to their peers, and to express themselves.” He quipped to say it could be dangerous as well whereby, caution and moderation are applied. “However, excessive internet use can have serious negative consequences,” she said.

Dr. Lager, in response to a survey published by CASA Columbia, explained that the survey explores the relationship between teenagers, social media use, and drug abuse. The survey found that 70 per cent of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 spend time on a social media site in a typical day, which amounts to 17 million teenage users. Those that interact via social media on a daily basis are five times likelier to use tobacco, three times likelier to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana. 40 per cent of these teens surveyed admit to having seen pictures of people under the influence, and are four times likelier to use marijuana than those who haven’t scrolled through these images. The data makes sense: those exposed to pictures of drugs and alcohols are more inclined to seek and experiment with it themselves.

Dr. Lager analysed further that researchers have found some behavioural similarities between excessive Internet use and substance abuse, “including tolerance, withdrawal, unsuccessful attempts to cut back, and impairment in functioning.” However, Dr. Lager clarified that additional research needs to be done before defining “social media addiction” as a distinct diagnosis.

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