Oxford: Teens' life satisfaction has 'nothing to do' with how much they use social media

Just how much is social media use affecting children?

Oxford: Teens' life satisfaction has 'nothing to do' with how much they use social media
Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / Getty Images
  • Study finds that children's use of social media has a trivial effect on them.
  • Satisfaction and happiness is not as connected to social media as originally thought.
  • Only girls reduced their use of social media when they felt discontented.

Social media is a scourge to some and a mere distraction for others. Much has been said about the negative consequences of unchecked social media use. It has even become common wisdom to want to limit your screen time and limit kids' time online. Yet, there seems to be some positive news that social media isn't doing that much harm to developing children and teenagers.

A new in-depth study by researchers at the University of Oxford attempted to answer whether teenagers and adolescents who use social media more than average are less happier in life — or if unhappiness encourages them to use social media more.

Results of the study

The study, which assessed trends between 2009 and 2017, was published on May 6 in the journal PNAS. During that time, researchers asked 12,000 10- to 15- year-olds about their social media use. They questioned how much time they spend during a normal school day and then rated how satisfied they were with other aspects of their life.

The researchers found that the effects of time spent on social media appeared to be more diverse and wide-ranging for girls rather than boys, but they remarked that these effects were tiny.

Professor Andy Przybylski, one of the coauthors of the research stated: "99.75 percent of a young person's life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media".

Przybylski went on to say:

"It is entirely possible that there are other, specific, aspects of social media that are really not good for kids … or that there are some young people who are more or less vulnerable because of some background factor."

Social media and adolescents

Returning back to the statistical discrepancy between girls, the authors found that:

"There might be small reciprocal within-person effects in females, with increases in life satisfaction predicting slightly lower social media use, and increases in social media use predicting tenuous decreases in life satisfaction."

There was a consistency in girls being less satisfied about aspects of life in correlation to a slight reduction in social media use. Although, this might have meant that the girls were just better at reporting how they felt.

The relations linking social media use and life satisfaction are, therefore, more nuanced than previously assumed: They are inconsistent, possibly contingent on gender, and vary substantially depending on how the data are analyzed. Most effects are tiny — arguably trivial; where best statistical practices are followed, they are not statistically significant in more than half of models. That understood, some effects are worthy of further exploration and replication.

One of the teams' key takeaways was for parents to stop worrying about how long their kids were online in these mediums. Instead, learn how to talk to them about their experiences.

Researcher, Amy Orben stated:

"Just as things went awry offline, things will also go awry online, and it is really important for that communication channel to be open."

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CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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