Social Media and Mental Health

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The ease of access to social media is clear for all to see. Whether it's a train of commuters staring into their mobile phones, or a child who can't put their phone down at the dinner table, technology, and as a result social media, is ever present in modern day society. 

The benefits of social media are vast, yet just as there are many pros, the cons are ever present. The role that social media plays in the demise of an individual's mental health and well-being is a real cause for concern, with children and young adults being the most vulnerable to the risks that exist on the varying platforms. Some of the key stats and figures are listed below.

  • 91% of 16-24 year olds use the internet for social networking.
  • Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Social media use is linked with increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep.
  • Cyber bullying is a growing problem with 7 in 10 young people saying they have experienced it

    More information on the effects of social media on mental health can be found here.

Cyberbullying

  • Cyberbullying can occur through text, apps, online within social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. It includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.
  • Worryingly almost a half (49%) of young people with a long-standing illness or disability that affects their schooling said they had experienced bullying in the last year, compared with 36% of those that had no illness or disability. Similarly, 46% of young people with SEN had experienced bullying compared with 36% of young people without such needs (DfE, July 2016).
  • Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be persistent, permanent and hard to notice. It is incredibly important for the mental well-being of young people that cyberbullying is dealt with swiftly so that no young person has to suffer through it.
  • YoungMinds have produced an informative report of recommendations on the impacts of social media on mental well-being of young people

Comparisons to Unrealistic Portrayals/ False Ideals

  • Friends’ profiles may only portray edited versions of people’s lives, such as only displaying images in which the person looks attractive or is seen enjoying themselves.
  • This leads us to develop an impression that other people’s lives are better than our own.
  • This negative impact is exacerbated by the social pressure to get likes on posts (The Conversation, 2017).

Suicide and Self Harm Content

  • The potential negative impact of social media on at-risk young people is receiving increasing attention, for example, teenager Molly Russell took her own life in 2017 and links have been made between her death and content she was looking at on social media.
  • Risks identified include the potential for contagion or copycat events; sharing information about suicide methods; encouragement to engage in suicidal behaviour; and the normalisation of suicide-related behaviour as an acceptable coping mechanism.

Benefits

  • With all of the negative implications that social media carries, it can positively create a sense of community, and facilitate support from friends.
  • It can encourage people to seek help and share information and resources.
  • More frequent social media use has been associated with improved ability to share and understand the feelings of others.

 

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