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Adolescents’ Intense and Problematic Social Media Use and Their Well-Being in 29 Countries

Article Critique

Boer, M., Van den Eijnden, R. J., Boniel-Nissim, M., Wong, S., Inchley, J. C., Badura, P., Craig, W. M., Gobina, I., Kleszczewska, D., Klanšček, H. J., & Stevens, G. W. (2020). Adolescents’ intense and problematic social media use and their well-being in 29 countries. Journal of Adolescent Health66(6), S89-S99.

The objective of this study was to identify whether the extreme and challenging use of social media were linked to adolescents’ welfare independently, whether the prevalence of the two factors differed by the countries’ levels, and whether the variance in-country levels were connected to variances in access to the internet. The method used during the investigation was individual-level data from 154,981 youngsters from 29 republics that joined in the 2017/2018 well-being survey on behaviour in school-aged children (Boer et al., 2020). The mean age of the participants was 13.5. Excessive interaction with social media was measured using the time spent on social media, whereas the challenging practice was defined through the level of addiction. There was an assessment of psychological, faculty, and societal well-being. Country-level data was obtained from OECD databases on the internet.

The two-level lapse evaluations showed that prevalence in states having less intense social media uses reported extreme users with decreased family care and life fulfillment and increased mental issues than the less severe users. However, the states with a great incidence of extreme use described increased life contentment and household provision among the extreme users compared to the less severe users and similar psychological issues. The study concluded that adolescents with problematic social media use are at risk of poor well-being. This media use situation may be a normal teen behaviour helping in particular realms of their general health.

The research used data from the survey, which comprised generally demonstrative facts of youths from 47 nations. Their analysis sample included 154,981 adolescents with 29 regions, with 51% girls of mean age and standard deviation of 13.54 and 1.61 respectively (Boer et al., 2020). The procedures of assembling statistics, selection approaches, and questionnaires were identical and firmly complied with study protocol. Participation was anonymous and voluntary, ensuring consent from the participating adolescents, school, and parents. The investigators interpreted the assessment queries into the corresponding state languages of their participants before the survey assessment. Also, the researchers sought institutional ethical consent in each of the 29 regions.

The analysis sample found 22.4% of the participants with omitted figures on a minimum of one individual-level variable (Boer et al., 2020). The challenging public media use had the greatest omitted data (9.8% of the study sample). Absent figures were accredited using the various imputations with M-plus to retain all respondents. The researchers conducted two-level lapse studies on this ascribed data. Representations were predicted using Maximum Probability approximation with stout average errors accounting for the twisted dissemination of the health outcomes (Kelley Pace, 2018). The researchers selected the paramount model appropriate for further interpretation after conducting the analyses.

The study found a positive or negative association between adolescents’ intense use of social media and their welfare and national context. On the other hand, the difficult social media use indicated less comfort in all the studied domains in the countries. Findings for inappropriate use were more dependable than the concentrated use, with minor intensities of educational facility, intellectual, and the collective well-being among the demanding users in all countries. This variance was unexplainable using the national-level occurrence of intense and complex social media use, excluding the undesirable relationship between challenging use and societal security, higher in countries with a lower frequency of inappropriate social media use.

This study has several strengths, such as the conceptual distinction between intense and problematic social media use, the representative nature of the expected data, and the number of included countries. However, the cross-sectional design used in the study lacks causal inferences. Also, the findings would require more caution during interpretation as the social, mental, and school comfort were dignified with few or distinct objects. Using such methods may have restricted representation of the health concepts, hence no dependability for the solo-object measures. Additional study replicating the existing data with more detailed standards would be necessary. Another limitation is that all measurements were based on self-reports, such as actual time on social media among the participants.

The measure of intense social media use was the active use of social media in communication instead of inactive media consumption such as scrolling through profiles of participants. Using the passive method could have produced dissimilar outcomes as investigation proposes that inactive usage largely decreases health. In contrast, active service may improve the well-being of a user. Therefore, significant future research directions require longitudinal research related to the association between problematic and intense social media use and smartphone tracking applications to fill the gaps left out by this study.

Considering the purpose, methods of study, results, and notwithstanding the strengths and weaknesses of this study, this topic was a great choice. Conducting this investigation involving adolescents in the 29 countries who reported problematic social media use and showed that they were at risk of poor well-being will help develop and improve the existing policies and guidelines for healthy social media interaction. Schools, clinical settings, and families were identified as the potential settings to detect adolescents with problematic social media use. These settings could also implement interventions and support to reduce the level of this issue.


Boer, M., Van den Eijnden, R. J., Boniel-Nissim, M., Wong, S., Inchley, J. C., Badura, P., Craig, W. M., Gobina, I., Kleszczewska, D., Klanšček, H. J., & Stevens, G. W. (2020). Adolescents’ intense and problematic social media use and their well-being in 29 countries. Journal of Adolescent Health66(6), S89-S99.

Kelley Pace, R. (2018). Maximum likelihood estimation. Handbook of Regional Science, 1-17.


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