Background: Many questions and contradictory beliefs exist in regards to the impact social media and social networking sites may have on the mental health and wellbeing of the adolescents who use them. Objective: To systematically review empirical studies conducted within the last 10 years on this topic in order to come to a consensus regarding the impact of social media usage on adolescent users. To identify any variables or predispositions that may moderate these effects. Mel hods: A systematic review of research published between 2008 and 2016 retrieved from searches on two databases. Results were analyzed using a narrative synthesis approach and examined under the following frameworks: harmful exposure, peer support, and addiction. Results: Database search retrieved 13 relevant studies. Social media and social networking sites were reported as being beneficial by providing peer support, a sense of acceptance amongst one’s peers as well as a way to maintain social connections. Harmful effects included potential addiction, exposure to harmful experiences and a higher risk for mental health problems. Variables that increased the risk of negative effects were younger age, engaging with the sites for over two hours a day and beginning use at a younger age. Conclusions: This review has revealed inconsistent evidence showing both benefits and harms of using social media and social networking site. Online social sites are still relatively new and are constantly changing. Future research is required in order to confidently establish short term and long-term effects.
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