Excessive Social Media Use is Less Harmful than Disconnection for the Self Esteem of Rural Adolescents
5 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2022
Date Written: June 2022
A body of research has suggested that adolescents experience harm to their psychological well-being, including self-esteem, because of excessive time spent using digital media, such as social media. The mechanism through which screen time influences self-esteem is often explained as the result of displacement of time spent with family, friends, and in other social activities. Many scholars have been critical of this research, for omitted variable bias (e.g., failing to formally model displacement), ignoring gender differences (e.g., a negative relationship for girls but not for boys), and for failing to report the magnitude of effects (e.g., statistically significant but substantively small relationships). “Disconnection” is often the prescribed solution to adolescent media use. Through a survey of rural adolescents, we find that “excessive” time on digital media has a small to trivial relationship to self-esteem when compared to other known predictors, such as gender and academic performance. Disconnection in the form of restrictive media parenting, or inequalities in Internet access are negatively and substantively related to adolescent self-esteem. These types of disconnection rank among the largest contributors to self-esteem – far greater than what can be attributed to heavy use of any digital media.
Keywords: well-being, adolescent, Internet addiction, video games, digital divide, digital inequality, depression, anxiety
JEL Classification: I12, I14, I18, O30, R50, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation