Advice

Is social media affecting young people’s mental health?

A recent report by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Youth Health Movement has revealed the social media sites which are having the most negative impact on young people’s mental health.

Like brushing your teeth or eating your lunch, social media has quickly become a part of our day to day routine.

Many of us can’t go an hour without checking our Facebook feed or snapping a picture for Instagram. This has never been more true for the younger generation in our society.

There are 400 million daily active users on Instagram, 1.15 billion on Facebook and Snapchat has now hit 200 million users with the majority aged between 18 to 29.

The report entitled #StatusofMind looks at the positive and negative effects social media has on young people’s health and wellbeing.

It is based on a survey of almost 1,500 teenagers and young people aged 14 to 24 from all across the UK. The report shows how each social media platform scored in 14 factors relating to young people’s health and wellbeing.

The factors included issues such as anxiety, depression, sleep, self-identity, bullying and body image.

Based on these ratings the survey found that Youtube was the most positive social media platform whilst Instagram was rated as the most negative.

1.) Youtube

2.) Twitter

3.) Facebook

4.) Snapchat

5.) Instagram

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues.”

She said her charity wants to promote and encourage positive aspects of networking platforms and avoid a situation that leads to social media psychosis which may blight the lives of young people.

On average, 11–18 year-olds spend over 11 hours per day exposed to electronic media (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010).

Hannah Baron is a senior clinical psychologist with the charity Chums who offer mental health and emotional wellbeing services to children, young people, adults and families across Luton and Bedfordshire.

Hannah says: “The development of social media is very much in its own stage of adolescence and given this we do not have a vast array of research from which to draw upon. Despite this, there is growing awareness that although there are opportunities, there are also numerous risks from social media to adolescent mental health and development.

“As we have known for a long time, adolescence is a stage of many changes with a focus on identity formation, social connection and independence. Some studies have pointed to a detrimental impact on self-esteem and confidence with constant comparisons being available for the teenager to access.”

She says that despite these claims there is much more that needs to be done to fully explore the impact that social media can have on the developing brain and we need to remain mindful of supporting adolescents with their use of social media and helping them to safely navigate the networking world.

 Will this research change the way you see social media?

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