We may all be glued to our phones, but one survey suggests some social media apps can be detrimental to young people in particular.
According to a report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K., Instagram was ranked the worst app for young people’s mental health, followed by Snapchat.
“We were surprised by the findings – particularly the extent to which young people themselves say that social media platforms are having a negative impact on their mental health and well-being. ” report author Matt Keracher tells Global News.
The #StatusofMind survey, which interviewed 1,500 U.K. residents between the ages of 14 and 24, asked 14 questions based on five social media sites: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
In some cases, social media proved to be beneficial for some participants.
“Young people see social media as a place that can have a positive effect on their ability to express themselves, to receive emotional support and gain access to health information,” Keracher says.
On the downside, however, the report noted that one in six young people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. In addition, the rates of anxiety and depression in youth in the U.K. had increased by 70 per cent over the last 25 years. These stats, however, weren’t linked to social media use in particular.
“Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life. These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude in young people. Individuals may view heavily photo-shopped, edited or staged photographs and videos and compare them to their seemingly mundane lives,” the report notes.
Why Instagram stuck out
According to the survey, Instagram caused anxiety, depression, loneliness, and issues with sleep, body image and bullying.
FoMO (fear of missing out) was also ranked high in terms of negative experiences.
“Four of the five social media platforms we included in the study received a net negative rating for their impact on a range of health-related issues,” Keracher says.
Earlier this month, Instagram launched the #HereForYou initiative to raise awareness about mental health, Fortune reports. The campaign rolled out with videos from three Instagram users who shared their personal struggles with mental health, and encouraged other users to anonymously report those in their networks who they believe need help.
“If you see a post on Instagram from someone who may be in need of mental health support, you can report it anonymously. The next time that person logs into the app, we will connect them to organizations in their country that offer help,” Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom said in a statement.
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It’s not just young people
Keracher says while his team’s findings were directed at young people, these apps could also negatively impact adults.
“The pressures faced on social media are not limited to one age group — they can be experienced by anyone.”
And since Instagram is often the go-to platform for people to display their seemingly picture-perfect lives — whether it’s the perfect relationship, body or luxury life — Keracher says it is important for us to remember it’s all curated.
“Images are frequently altered to project a ‘perfect’ life or a ‘perfect’ body, and shouldn’t be taken at face value,” he says.
How to talk to children
Vancouver-based parenting coach Julie Romanowski says it’s important to realize that these apps aren’t the root cause of mental health issues.
“Social media, apps and/or screens don’t cause mental illness, but they can seriously impact mental health and well-being,” she tells Global News.
The first step in helping kids circumvent these problems is to note how often they’re on these social media sites.
“Start with having a discussion with your child about what you notice is happening and what you would like to happen. Such as, ‘I notice you are on these apps for 30 or more minutes with no breaks. I want you to take a mental break and put your device down, do some deep breathing, focus in on something else that’s healthier and positive.'”
She also says it’s imperative to monitor your children’s social media pages.
“Be clear about monitoring your child’s behaviour as a form of guiding them through the lesson versus just controlling them and their every move,” she says.
Where to get help
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.