Nordisk Alkohol Nark 39 (4) 347-361 [2022-08-00; online 2022-02-04]
Background and aims: The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed life circumstances for adolescents worldwide. With schools being closed and regular activities being cancelled, gaming and social media use are activities that might gain in importance. There is a risk that these online behaviours have negative effects on other important activities, such as being physically active, sleeping, and studying, as well as general well-being. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on gaming and social media use, and its effects on the well-being of adolescents. Methods: A total of 1232 adolescents (82.5% female) participated in an anonymous web survey containing questions on gaming, social media use, and perceived negative consequences of gaming and social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were analysed with a quasi-Poisson regression model. Results: The results indicated an increase in gaming and social media use, which was associated with negative consequences and perceived well-being. A majority of adolescents reported that they used social media more than they felt comfortable with. There were large differences between boys and girls, with girls being more negatively affected across measures. Discussion: The increase in gaming and social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic might have negative effects on the well-being of adolescents, and on other activities that are important to health. Our interpretation of the findings is that gaming and social media use might partly function as coping mechanisms to deal with stress and/or boredom resulting from COVID-19 restrictions. There is a risk that these coping strategies become maladaptive over time. Conclusions: The restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in an increase in the amount of time adolescents spend gaming and on social media, which might have negative effects on their well-being. This study highlights the urgent need to consider adaptive and healthy coping strategies for adolescents given the pandemic may mean that daily living could continue to be altered in the near future.