Digital media and wellbeing among children and adolescents in Ticino

+++Publication Alert+++ Digital Media Use and Adolescents' Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis



1 February 2022


The Covid-19 physical distancing measures had a detrimental effect on adolescents’ mental health. Adolescents worldwide alleviated the negative experiences of social distancing by spending more time on digital devices. Through a systematic literature search in eight academic databases (including Eric, Proquest Sociology, Communication & Mass Media Complete, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Pubmed, and Web of Science), the present systematic review and meta-analysis first summarized the existing evidence from 30 studies, published up to September 2021, on the link between mental health and digital media use in adolescents during Covid-19. Digital media use measures included social media, screen time, and digital media addiction. Mental health measures were grouped into conceptually similar dimensions, such as well-being, ill-being, social well-being, lifestyle habits, and Covid- 19-related stress. Results showed that, although most studies reported a positive association between ill-being and social media use (r = 0.171, p = 0.011) and ill-being and media addiction (r = 0.434, p = 0.024), not all types of digital media use had adverse consequences on adolescents’ mental health. In particular, one-to-one communication, self-disclosure in the context of mutual online friendship, as well as positive and funny online experiences mitigated feelings of loneliness and stress. Hence, these positive aspects of online activities should be promoted. At the same time, awareness of the detrimental effects of addictive digital media use should be raised: That would include making adolescents more aware of adverse mechanisms such as social comparison, fear of missing out, and exposure to negative contents, which were more likely to happen during social isolation and confinement due to the pandemic.