Social media sites harming young people’s mental health

Four of the five most popular social media sites are having a negative impact on young people’s mental health, according to new research.

Photo sharing platform Instagram has proven to be the most damaging, according to research from the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement. The survey questioned 1,500 14 to 24-year-olds – and respondents said that the app made them feel inadequate and anxious.

The report found that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter were also damaging, with only YouTube having a positive effect.

The four harmful platforms were found to increase issues with body image, bullying, sleep issues, anxiety, loneliness and depression.

“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 that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said Royal Society for Public Health chief executive Shirley Cramer.

Cramer is calling on tougher regulations “to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing”, including pop-up messages to warn young people who use certain platforms regularly, discreetly signposting users exhibiting worrying behaviour towards support, and notices of filters on pictures.

Each of the platforms were rated in 14 different criteria, with Instagram fairing badly in seven of the 14. Users did, however, say it was positive in terms of self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

You can check out the full report here.