Instagram and Snapchat are the social media platforms that have the worst impact on children’s mental health, according to a study published by Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM).
The report – released on Friday and titled #StatusOfMind – examined the positive and negative effects of social media on young people’s health. It is based on responses from 1,500 young people (aged 14-24) from across the UK.
Children were asked to score how each of the social media platforms they use impacts upon 14 health and wellbeing-related issues, which were identified by experts as the most significant.
The study found that YouTube had the most positive impact, while Instagram and Snapchat were the most detrimental to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Here’s a ranking of the big five platforms:
YouTube (most positive) Twitter Facebook Snapchat Instagram (most negative)
Negative mental health impacts that can be induced by social media platforms include anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The platforms can also cause children to become body conscious, while FoMo (fear of missing out) and bullying are other issues.
Shirley Cramer, CEO of RSPH, highlighted in a statement that social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.
“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” she said.
“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.”
RSPH and YHM now want the UK government and social media firms to mitigate the potential negative aspects of social media for young people, while promoting the positive ones.
The report makes a number of recommendations. They include:
Introducing a pop up when users over indulge in social media Getting social media companies to identify children that might be suffering from mental health problems by monitoring their posts Tasking social media companies with flagging images that have been digitally manipulated.
The 14 health and wellbeing-related issues that children scored were:
Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences Access to expert health information you know you can trust Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends) Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease) Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy) Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own) Sleep (quality and amount of sleep) Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas) Self-identity (ability to define who you are) Body image (how you feel about how you look) Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people) Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people) Bullying (threatening or abusive behaviour towards you) FoMO (Fear Of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)