Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

Royal Society for Public Health | May 2018| #StatusOfMind  Social media and Young people’s mental health and wellbeing

This report from Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) explores the positive and negative impact of social media on young people aged between 16-24, and their mental health and wellbeing. It also includes a league table of five social media platforms which have been ranked in order of their net impact on young people’s health and wellbeing by young people.

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Image source: .rsph.org.u

The RSPH calls for

  1. The introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media
  2. Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated
  3. NHS England to apply the Information Standard Principles to health information published via social media
  4. Safe social media use to be taught during PSHE education in school
  5.  Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts and other data, and discreetly signpost to support
  6. Youth-workers and other professionals who engage with young people to have a digital (including social) media component in their training
  7. More research to be carried out into the effects of social media on young people’s mental health

The report can be downloaded here 

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Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research | BMC Public Health | Story via ScienceDaily

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Researchers at the University of Essex and UCL found an association between increased time spent on social media in early adolescence (age 10) and reduced wellbeing in later adolescence (age 10-15) — but only among girls.

The study used data from the youth panel of the UK Household Panel Study — a large national survey which interviews all members of a household annually, from 2009 — 2015. A total of 9,859 UK adolescents aged 10 to 15 years completed questions on how many hours they spent interacting on social media sites on a typical school day.

The authors found that adolescent girls used social media more than boys and social media interaction increased with age for both boys and girls. At age 13, about a half of girls were interacting on social media for more than 1 hour per day, compared to just one third of boys. By age 15, both genders increased their social media use but girls continued to use social media more than boys, with 59% of girls and 46% of boys interacting on social media for one or more hours per day.

Wellbeing appeared to decline throughout adolescence in both boys and girls, as reflected in scores for happiness and other aspects of wellbeing, although findings indicated that girls experienced more negative aspects of wellbeing.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Cara L. Booker, Yvonne J. Kelly, Amanda Sacker | Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK | BMC Public Health | 2018

The benefits of social media for young people in care

Until recently, it has been assumed that platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp only pose a risk for young people in care. However, research now suggests that this vulnerable group can benefit from the psychological, emotional and social support gained via online networks. | University of East Anglia | story via ScienceDaily

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Researchers from the University of East Anglia have been looking at how young people living in state care can benefit from social media use. More than 100 visits to four residential care settings in England were made over a seven month period. During this time, in-depth observations on how 10 young people routinely used social media in their everyday lives were made. Focus groups and interviews with the young people and their social care professionals were also conducted.

The study found:

  • Having positive online networks helped young people in care gain ‘social capital’
  • Platforms like Facebook can contribute to increased self-esteem and mental well-being, which is particularly helpful for young people in care who frequently report feeling worthless, depressed and isolated
  • Social media gave young people the chance to network with organisations that could help them with opportunities for personal progression

Author, Dr S. Hammond said “This valuable piece of work makes clear the benefits of social media for looked after children and we welcome this contribution to the understanding of the impact of online. However, social networking carries risks as well as benefits and there is a responsibility on social media sites to make their platforms safe for their young users, including looked after children who can often be particularly vulnerable, so that they are free to enjoy the online world.”

Full reference:  Hammond, S. P. et al. |  Social Media, Social Capital and Adolescents Living in State Care: A Multi-Perspective and Multi-Method Qualitative Study. | The British Journal of Social Work | published online 02 February 2018

Full story at ScienceDaily

Nearly half of young people have experienced cyber bullying

Nearly half of young people aged 11-25 years have experienced threatening, intimidating or nasty messages via social media, email or texts, according to a survey by Young Minds

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Young Minds and The Children’s Society, have carried out a survey of 1,000 children and young people aged 11-25 to hear about their views and experiences of bullying online.

More than a third of young people (37%) said they had experienced online bullying in their lifetime versus 47% of those who had reported offline bullying experiences.

An overwhelming majority of young people surveyed (83%) said that social media companies should do more to tackle cyberbullying on social media.

More than half (59%) of young people had their first social media account at the age of 12, despite guidelines for social media sites stating that you must be 13 years old to have an account.

Nearly half (45%) said they spent more than three hours per day on social media.

The Young Minds inquiry aims to look at what social media companies are doing to tackle such behaviour on their platforms, and whether the industry is going far enough to protect children and young people on their sites.

More detail: An Inquiry into the Impact of Cyberbullying on Social Media on Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Social media abuse affects almost half of girls in UK

Nearly half (48%) of girls aged 11-18 in the UK and two-fifths of boys have experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media | OnMedica

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Image source: Plan

The findings, based on a survey commissioned by girls’ rights charity Plan International UK, have prompted fears that young people, and girls in particular, are being forced to withdraw from social media due to fear of criticism, harassment or abuse. The charity today launches the #girlsbelonghere campaign to tackle the problem.

The survey revealed boys are significantly less likely than girls to experience abuse, with 40% reporting a negative experience. They are also less likely (59%) to take evasive actions to avoid being criticised such as refraining from posting on social media or holding back their opinions.

For the survey, research agency Opinium contacted 1,002 young people aged 11-18. Some 235 of the 486 girls and 202 of the 510 boys who responded reported online abuse.

Social media pressure is linked to cosmetic procedure boom

Young people are turning to cosmetic procedures such as botox and dermal fillers as a result of social media pressure, according to a report | BBC News

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Image source: Nuffield Bioethics

A study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says government must protect people from an unregulated industry. The report also condemns makeover apps and online plastic surgery games aimed at children as young as nine. The authors fear such apps are contributing to growing anxieties around body image. Much of the cosmetic procedures industry is unregulated so reliable data on its size is hard to come by. In 2015 one market research company estimated the UK market could be worth as much as £3.6bn. But there is little doubt it has grown significantly over the past decade.

The report identifies several factors that are encouraging young people in particular to focus on body image. These include increasing levels of anxiety around appearance, the rise of social media where photos can receive positive or negative ratings and the popularity of celebrity culture, complete with airbrushed images and apparently perfect lifestyles.

Social Media and Substance Use: What Should We Be Recommending to Teens and Their Parents?

With social media increasingly integrated into the lives of today’s teenagers, there are two urgent needs: for further research on online exposure to substance use and for clear recommendations to mental health practitioners, adolescents, and parents about the need to assess and monitor teens’ online exposure to substance use | Journal of Adolescent Health

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Image source: Roey Ahram – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Teens and Social Media

In 2015, 92% of teens aged 13 to 17 years reported going online daily, 24% were online “almost constantly,” and 71% used more than one social networking sit. Social media use is associated with mental health problems including depression, sleep disturbance, and eating concerns among young people. Social media perpetuates social comparison in a world where everything is curated, which is particularly problematic for teens who may be more prone to depressive cognitions in the face of such social comparison.

Social Media and Substance Use

Substance use is rampant and often glorified by celebrities and others on social media. There have been reports of social media being used as a strategy for selling drugs, with hashtags facilitating the process of pairing buyers with sellers. Tobacco, electronic cigarette, and alcohol industries have widely integrated social media platforms into marketing strategies that are fully accessible to teens. In this way social media has opened up doors for these industries to market to youth even when direct marketing to minors is against the law or supposed to be internally regulated. The burgeoning cannabis industry is opening up even more opportunities for teens to have exposure to advertising through social media. Exposure to substance use imagery is associated with subsequent onset in use, which is why drinking alcohol and using drugs in movies warrants an R rating. Social media is harder to regulate.

Full reference: Costello, C.R. & Ramo, D.E. (2017) Social Media and Substance Use: What Should We Be Recommending to Teens and Their Parents? Journal of Adolescent Health. 60(6) pp. 629–630