Social Media & Mental Health

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 Social media is an ever growing phenomena that has taken over the world. It is informative, helpful and convenient but on the other hand is becoming a growing area of concern for children and young people due to the addictive nature and easy access to inappropriate age related content.

Research about the relationship between social media and mental health have started to surface and there is clear evidence to show that those children and young people who are online a lot are 3 times more likely to be depressed than those people who use the internet occasionally. It has also been determined that there are 3 key areas that affect children and young people. Sleep, a need to compare their lives to other people’s and posting things online to get feedback in an attempt to boost self-esteem.

We are all aware of how it feels when we don’t get enough sleep and the impact that this has on our mood, so imagine how this would feel for prolonged periods of time and with an ever changing brain of a child/adolescent.

 

The access to social media has opened up a new way to view other people’s lives and in turn compare ourselves to others. The comparisons can be with people who have completely different means, cultures and realities which skews the outlook for the children and young people because they are totally unachievable. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and in turn low self-esteem, low confidence and low self-worth coupled with anxiety related symptoms.

 

A number of children and young people use social media to gain affirmation for the pictures or items that they post online. If they do not get this in a timely or positive way then this can lead to low self-esteem. It is difficult to challenge this as this is the culture that is being built for young people to gain feedback from others. The feedback, regardless of whether it is positive or negative becomes addictive and requires more time and energy to be put into posting things online. It is a vicious cycle of wanting to fit in…trying to fit in and needing to fit in. All of which are unachievable and a recipe for increasing children and young people’s vulnerability to mental distress.  

 

As adults it is our responsibility to ensure that children and young people are safeguarded against the negative effects of social media but to help promote the positive aspects that this has.  Social media plays a crucial part in how children and young people interact with each other and develop relationships accompanied by allowing them creativity and expressing themselves. There are also many sources of support and information on the internet, including:

 

Report on Social Media and Children's Mental Health from the Education Policy Institute, June 2017 

 

Briefing Paper on Social Media, Young People and Mental Health from the Centre for Mental Health, 2018

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust - Social Media and Teenagers, A Practical Approach, October 2018

Details of Apps that Young People are using for parents to know about.