Windows of developmental sensitivity to social media

Abstract

The relationship between social media use and life satisfaction changes across adolescent development. Our analyses of two UK datasets comprising 84,011 participants (10-80 years old) find that the cross-sectional relationship between self-reported estimates of social media use and life satisfaction ratings is most negative in younger adolescents. Furthermore, sex differences in this relationship are only present during this time. Longitudinal analyses of 17,409 participants (10-21 years old) suggest distinct developmental windows of sensitivity to social media in adolescence, when higher estimated social media use predicts a decrease in life satisfaction ratings one year later (and vice-versa: lower estimated social media use predicts an increase in life satisfaction ratings). These windows occur at different ages for males (14-15 and 19 years old) and females (11-13 and 19 years old). Decreases in life satisfaction ratings also predicted subsequent increases in estimated social media use, however, these were not associated with age or sex.

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