Gaming and social media often go hand-in-hand, those who spend a significant amount of time gaming spend a fair amount of time on social media. It is common for Gen Z gamers to consume content on social media, particularly YouTube. However, what is the impact of social media on users’ mental health and emotional well-being? Could we unknowingly be harming ourselves when going down a YouTube rabbit hole? Or scrolling through our news feeds.

A study by ExpressVPN takes a closer look at which social platforms are most popular and how long young people are spending on social media across three different countries. We also consider the prevalence of social media and its impact on adolescent mental health.

Which platforms are young people using the most?

ExpressVPN’s data shows that 100 percent of the young people surveyed (aged 16 to 24) had at least one social media account.

YouTube was the dominant platform among the survey’s respondents (74 percent), with Instagram coming a close second at 72 percent.

The least popular platforms were Facebook and Twitter with 58 and 49 percent of respondents holding an account. These figures are in sharp contrast to the two platforms’ use among Millennials, which experts note could indicate young people’s preference for video-driven content alongside perceptions of Facebook and Twitter being for older people.

In fact, Facebook, which is the world’s largest social media network, is facing a problem: it can’t retain young people. As reported by The Verge, the company expects to face a “severe” decline in teenage and young adult users.

TikTok is a different story; 65 percent of the users surveyed held an account. It’s also a platform where some users spend a longer amount of time active.

How much are young people using social media?

Platforms that offer video content are the most popular among young people, and they have the highest usage times. Forty-five percent of the respondents spent at least an hour a day on TikTok, and 52 percent said they spent the same amount of time on YouTube.

That’s at the lower end of the scale, at the upper end, though. Fourteen percent said they are on YouTube for five or more hours a day, and 11 percent spent that much time on TikTok.

It’s an interesting situation given that 61 percent of the young people surveyed were worried about social media addiction and half were “envious” of those with no social media presence.

Is teen mental health suffering?

The majority of young people surveyed (86 percent) said that social media impacted their overall happiness. People also noted that social media influenced their levels of anxiety and depression.

There are positive points for teenagers on social media; for example, connecting with online peer groups is incredibly important during the adolescent period, but this exposure brings risks to body image anxiety, fear of not belonging, and lack of social skills.

The topic remains a complex matter and more evidence is needed to determine the impact that social media has on mental health. Still, as it becomes a dominant form of online communication and community, further discoveries and research will be made.

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