the cedar ledge

# Underestimating Digital Media Harm

Date: May 25 2020

Summary: Twenge's critique of modern day assessment of the negative impacts of social media on adolescents.

Keywords: ##bibliography #harm #depression #social #media #factors #mental #illness ##health #archive

# Bibliography

J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4.

The consideration of only monotonic effects were accounted. Relationships between digital media use and health are generally non-monotonic. Associations often follow a J-shaped curve. The first issue raised by Jean Twenge against "The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use" by Orben and Przybylski. This is nicknamed the Goldilocks hypothesis which was posited by Przybylski himself. [0] J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4. [1] A. K. Przybylski and N. Weinstein, "A large-scale test of the goldilocks hypothesis: quantifying the relations between digital-screen use and the mental well-being of adolescents," Psychological Science, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 204–215, 2017.

The global adolescent mental health crisis started around 2012 and greatly affects girls more so than boys [5]. As TV is now commonplace and TV watching amongst adolescents has declined after 2012 [6], TV watching does not suggest an adequate explanation for the sudden increase in mental health disorders. The second issue raised by Jean Twenge against "The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use" by Orben and Przybylski [0] J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4. [5] S. McManus et al., "Prevalence of non-suicidal self-harm and service contact in England, 2000–14: repeated cross-sectional surveys of the general population," The lancet psychiatry, vol. 6, no. 7, pp. 573–581, 2019. [6] J. M. Twenge, G. N. Martin, and B. H. Spitzberg, "Trends in US Adolescents’ media use, 1976–2016: The rise of digital media, the decline of TV, and the (near) demise of print.," Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 8, no. 4, p. 329, 2019.

The Monitoring the Future dataset examines digital media usage via two ways.

1. A minimal variance scale with labels that range from "never" to "almost every day."

2. A sufficiently varied count of weekly hours spent on digital media.

However, Orben and Przybylski only included low-variance items. The fourth issue raised by Jean Twenge against "The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use" by Orben and Przybylski. [0] J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4. [1] J. E. Schulenberg, L. D. Johnston, P. M. O’Malley, J. G. Bachman, R. A. Miech, and M. E. Patrick, "Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2016: Volume II, College students and adults ages 19-55," 2017.

Including controls that could in fact be mediators. The fifth issue raised by Jean Twenge against "The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use" by Orben and Przybylski. Orben and Przybylski control for factors such as negative attitudes towards school, time spent with parents, parent distress and closeness to parents, which could be caused by heavy social media use. [0] J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4.

Using $r^{2}$ for effect size has multiple problems. The sixth issue raised by Jean Twenge against "The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use" by Orben and Przybylski. [0] J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4. [1] C. J. Ferguson, "An effect size primer: a guide for clinicians and researchers.," 2016. [2] D. C. Funder and D. J. Ozer, "Evaluating effect size in psychological research: Sense and nonsense," Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 156–168, 2019.

Heavy use of social media is regularly correlated with negative mental health outcomes of varying severity. This relationship disproportionately affects girls. Given that there is no plausible alternative explanation for this association, associations with a variety of adverse mental health conditions in girls should not be dismissed. Adverse events being rising rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide [0] J. M. Twenge, J. Haidt, T. E. Joiner, and W. K. Campbell, "Underestimating digital media harm," Nat Hum Behav, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 346–348, Apr. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0839-4. [1] S. McManus et al., "Prevalence of non-suicidal self-harm and service contact in England, 2000–14: repeated cross-sectional surveys of the general population," The lancet psychiatry, vol. 6, no. 7, pp. 573–581, [1] [2] J. M. Twenge, "Why increases in adolescent depression may be linked to the technological environment," Current opinion in psychology, vol. 32, pp. 89–94, 2020.2019.

Effect sizes include many individual items. These are lower in internal reliability than multiple-item scales and thus produce lower effect sizes. Scales with more items count more heavily in the analysis because they have more items. [1] L. J. Cronbach and P. E. Meehl, "Construct validity in psychological tests.," Psychological bulletin, vol. 52, no. 4, p. 281, 1955. The third issue raised by Jean Twenge against "The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use" by Orben and Przybylski

Mediators are a possible reason behind an effect. They should not be controlled. This is from an email conversation with Jean Twenge about this issue. For example, it is plausible that excessive social media use causes teens to spend less time with their parents. Thus this variable should not be a covariate, as it might partially explain why the correlation between social media use and depression occurs in the first place.

## How To Cite

Zelko, Jacob. Underestimating Digital Media Harm. https://jacobzelko.com/05252020221842-digital-media. May 25 2020.

## Discussion:

CC BY-SA 4.0 Jacob Zelko. Last modified: January 17, 2023. Website built with Franklin.jl and the Julia programming language.