RSPH and the Young Health Movement (YHM) have published a new report, #StatusOfMind, examining the positive and negative effects of social media on young people’s health, including a list of social media platforms according to their impact on young people’s mental health.
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Teen social media statistics
- 91% of 16-24 year olds use the internet for social networking
- Social media use is linked with increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep
- Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol
Best & worst social media apps for teens’ mental health
Negative effects of social media
Anxiety & depression:
Research suggests that young people who spend more than 2 hours per day on social media are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression).
Numerous studies have shown that increased social media use has a significant association with poor sleep quality in young people. Using phones, laptops, and tablets at night before bed is also linked with poor quality sleep.
Body image is an issue for many young people, both male and female. Studies have shown that when women in their teens and early twenties view Facebook for only a short period of time, body image concerns are higher compared to non-users.
Bullying during childhood is a major risk factor for a number of issues including mental health, education and social relationships, with long-lasting effects often carried right through to adulthood.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):
FOMO has been robustly linked to higher levels of social media engagement, meaning that the more an individual uses social media, the more likely they are to experience FOMO.
Positive effects of social media
Access to expert health info:
Social networking offers young people who may be suffering from mental health issues an opportunity to read, watch or listen to, and understand, the health experiences of others – relating them back to their own reality.
Conversations on social media can emerge and provide young people with essential interaction to overcome difficult health issues, particularly when they may not have access to that support face-to-face.
The community building aspect of social media is also distinctly positive for many young people. By joining ‘groups’ or ‘pages’ young people can surround themselves with like-minded people and share their thoughts or concerns.
Self-expression and self-identity are important aspects of development throughout the teen years. Social media can act as an effective platform for positive self-expression, letting teens put forward their best self.
Building upon relationships:
There is evidence to suggest that strong adolescent friendships can be enhanced by social media interaction, allowing young people to create stronger bonds with people they already know.
What can parents do to keep their children safe from the negative effects of social media?
- Teach students that social media can and should be utilized as a tool for good
- Ensure your children are equipped with the relevant skills to be able to navigate social media
- Consider joining Parent University to get videos you can watch WITH your children. These videos will start a healthy dialog that will keep them safe and smart online
- Remind students that they can always come to you or a trusted adult if they ever need help
- When you’re ready for your child to be online, read our Parent App Guide page on to learn how teens can use social media safely