Gen-X or Millennials? Social media's biggest addicts

Gen-X or Millennials? Social media's biggest addicts
Gen-X or Millennials? Social media's biggest addicts

Psychologists and charities are calling for more research into how social media addiction could be affecting older generations.

The call comes as thousands of people start the first-ever major social media detox initiative - 'Scroll Free September'.

The Royal Society For Public Health (RSPH), which is leading the campaign, expects tens of thousands of people from 56 different nations to quit the most popular social media apps for the month.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube will be off limits to all who take part.

The charity points to growing evidence of the negative impacts of social media in young people. Research from 2017 that prompted the campaign suggests that anxiety and depression, negative body image, cyberbullying, poor sleep and FOMO (fear of missing out) are all affecting young people online.

Other studies in recent years suggest that:

:: Ninety-one percent of 16 to 24-year-olds are using social media

:: Addiction is thought to affect around 5% of young people

:: Those who spend more than two hours a day on the platforms are more likely to report poor mental health

This photo illustration taken on March 22, 2018 shows a woman looking at Social Networking applications Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Twitter, Messenger and Linkedin on a smartphone in Kuala Lumpur. / AFP PHOTO / Manan VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images) 1:18
Video: Could you give up social media for a month?

However, RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer CBE says more research needs to be carried out into addiction and negative impacts on older people.

"One of the questions we would have is about role modelling, so when you've got family with young children or teenagers, I think we're not thinking as parents. How are we role modelling this? Are we sitting at dinner scrolling through our social media or tweeting, and what effect is this having on our children.

"I do think there needs to be some more research around adults but I think where we see the real evidence and damage potential is with children and young people."

:: Social media users urged to give up for a month

Studies are few and far between but one paper by Nielsen in 2017 in the US pointed to Generation X (ages 35-49) spending the most time on social media of all generations. Almost seven hours per week versus Millennials, who come in second, spending just over six hours per week.

Psychologist Noel Bell says older generations are not immune to social media's draws.

"We're looking for symptoms of addiction, pre-occupation, increased obsession, potentially loss of control and adverse consequences on a user's life."

The RSPH's social media free campaign comes as tech firms like Facebook and Instagram begin to address global pressure for change.

More from Science & Tech

Last month, new features were introduced to give updates and time limits on app usage. In a blog post Facebook wrote: "Our hope is that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms and also foster conversations between parents and teens about the online habits that are right for them."

:: On Sky News throughout September we'll be following a group of six people of all ages to see how they get on in their quest to go full 'Cold Turkey'. Through video diaries from our volunteers and expert analysis and industry interviews, we'll be exploring the positives and negatives of social media.

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