Thursday 14 December 2017

Instagram ranked worst social media network for young people's mental health, study finds

Photo posed
Photo posed

Daniel O'Connor

Instagram has been ranked as the social media network most harmful to young people’s mental health, a UK report has suggested.

A UK study of 1,479 people aged 14 to 24 found that the photo-sharing platform was damaging to young people’s body image, 'fear of missing out' and contributed to anxiety, depression and loneliness.

The '#StatusOfMind' report published by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) examined the negative effects of five social media platforms. Snapchat was found to be the second most harmful network, followed by Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

The RSPH has recommended that pop-up warnings should be heavily implemented on social media and that social media platforms highlight when a person’s photo has been digitally manipulated.

It also suggests that young people identified as potentially having mental health problems through their personal posts be signposted to information on where they can seek help and support.

Describing social media as “more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol”, the report  says that seven out of 10 young people had experienced cyber-bullying through social media.

People surveyed were asked to what extent each of the social media platforms they use made certain health-related factors better or worse such as anxiety, bullying and real world relationships. 

The findings fall in line with Irish trends with 72pc of young people citing body image as a main cause of stress and 43pc citing social media as a main cause of stress, according to a study conducted by ReachOut Ireland this year.

A spokesperson from Samaritans told Independent.ie that work needs to be done to make social media safer for young people.

“Social media and the online environment can act as an important source of support and information for young people. However, we know that some types of content found online can have a negative impact on people who are feeling vulnerable, particularly young people who are feeling suicidal.

“It’s important to explore options to make the online environment a safer place for young people. The idea of pop-up warnings is an interesting one and it would be worth researching whether this would have a positive impact on young people and how it would work in practice.

“Young people should be aware that how we see others portray themselves online does not always reflect reality and not to measure themselves against what they see online."

The positive impacts of social media on mental health were also acknowledged, with the report saying that social media offered the opportunity for users to better access mental health services and benefit from interacting with the health issues of others.

Speaking about the report, Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said social media “is 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.

“As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing,” she added.

For anyone affected by the issues raised in this article, contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans on 116 123

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