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Social media can be bad for youth mental health, but there are ways it can help

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flyawayhome
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Social media can be bad for youth mental health, but there are ways it can help

Postby flyawayhome » Tue, 12 Dec 2017 4:36 pm

Young people spend a lot of time on social media. They’re also more susceptible to peer pressure, low self-esteem and mental ill-health. A number of studies have found associations between increased social media use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating concerns, and suicide risk.

Certain characteristics of social media may contribute to these negative effects.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has been linked to depression, anxiety, social isolation, and suicide. Compared to “traditional” forms of bullying, cyberbullying can be witnessed by a larger audience, the perpetrator can remain anonymous, and the victim may find it difficult to escape.

Social media platforms have taken steps to address cyberbullying (such as Facebook’s “bullying prevention hub”), and almost all social media content can be reported to site administrators. But many victims don’t seek support, and research suggests 71% of young people don’t think social media platforms do enough to prevent cyberbullying.

Comparisons to unrealistic portrayals

A common social media activity is viewing others people’s profiles. But these frequently portray edited versions of people’s lives, such as only displaying images in which the person looks attractive or is seen enjoying themselves.

So young people may develop an impression other people’s lives are preferable to their own.

This can be made worse by the social endorsement provided by the number of “likes” a post might get. In one study, nearly one-fifth of respondents said they’d delete a post if it didn’t receive enough “likes”.

Suicide and self-harm content

The potential negative impact of social media on at-risk young people is receiving increasing attention. 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.

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