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Children's time spent on social media has "trivial" effect on happiness, report says

London -- The amount of time children spend on social media has only a "trivial" effect on their happiness, according to researchers at Britain's Oxford University. A report that looked at data on over 12,600 people between the ages of 10 and 15 found that the impact of social media screen time on happiness was nearly negligible.

"Most effects are tiny," the report said. "They are inconsistent, possibly contingent on gender, and vary substantively depending on how the data are analyzed."

The findings showed more of a link between girls' sense of well-being and time spent on social media than boys', but that difference could come down to how genders self-report, Andrew K. Przybylski who co-authored the report, told CBS News on Tuesday.

Some recent studies have pointed out the negative impact time spent on social media can have on mental health.

Effects of social media on adolescent brains 05:11

But Przybylski said he hoped to shift the focus of researchers from time spent on social media platforms, to what young people are actually doing on those platforms.

"Social media is like all of these different rich things that kids do, whether it be learning how to play guitar on YouTube or right wing radicalization or… looking up pictures of extreme thinness," he told CBS News. "We really need to get more granular with this, because the conversation about time on social media, it's sucking all the air out of the room and it's stopping people from thinking critically."

Przybylski stressed that a lot of the data necessary to do more nuanced analysis of how young people spend their time online hasn't been made available by the companies that profit from their habits.

"We don't have access to the most important data. We don't have access to data that Facebook or YouTube or the gaming companies have," he said.

Przybylski  said he hoped the study would help move the discussion about social media's effects on the happiness of young people "past this simple but wrong approach" of focusing so much on screen time, and into new territory.

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