"Nowadays, our society is becoming a 'phubbing society' [the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone] and this might contribute to more deaths than smoking," Mahidol University lecturer Piyawat Katewongsa said.
He was speaking at the 11th National Academic Conference titled "Population and Social Diversity in Thailand", held by Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) yesterday.
The conference opened with a discussion on three papers related to social media, "Conflict and Quarrelling in Social Media during Adolescence", "Who Are Who in Social Networks? The Diversity of Characteristics and Behaviours", and "How Teens Use Social Media to Find Sexual Partners".
Research shows that people in urban areas tend to use social media more than in other regions and that 69.7 per cent of the users are aged between 15 and 24, with the most popular applications being Facebook, Line, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
However, Piyawat pointed out that the "social-networking society" was becoming larger, with the number of older users rising. A study shows that people spend up to 7.2 hours daily on the Internet, which is a rising concern, he said.
The conference learned that social-media usage by teenagers also contributed to changes in sexual behaviour, even encouraging casual sex in some.
"This study shows that some teenagers use social media to find casual-sex partners, though other teens might just be using social media to communicate with their friends," said Niphon Darawuttimaprakorn, a researcher from IPSR.
A United Nations Children's Fund representative wrapped up the meeting by delivering a speech on social-media usage among Thais, and how it displayed the dynamics of taste and relevance to social progress.
"The social network has become a place for teenagers to get their voices heard and fulfil their needs as humans. The papers discussed today show us the starting point of societal changes," Usasinee Rewthong said.