Several observational studies have suggested that social media use could be linked to mental health problems in adolescents. However, no studies have quantified the proportion of mental health problems associated with social media use. This study aims to discover whether time spent on social media is significantly associated with the risk of mental health problems in adolescents.

This longitudinal cohort study included a total of 6,595 participants from a nationally representative cohort study of US adolescents. The self-reported time spent on social media during a day was considered. The primary outcome of the study was self-reported internalizing and externalizing problems.

The unadjusted analysis revealed that spending more than 30 minutes on social media was associated with a higher risk of internalizing problems compared with spending no time on social media. The relative risk ratios for spending time on social media were as follows: 1.30 for ≤30 minutes, 1.89 for >30 minutes to ≤3 hours, 2.47 for >3 to ≤6 hours, and 2.83 for >6 hours. Besides, using social media for 3 hours or more was associated with internalizing problems alone.

The research concluded that using social media for 30 minutes or more per day was associated with internalizing and externalizing problems in US adolescents.