The effects social media is having on the young

Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen by 70% in the past 25 years.

Of course it could be argued that there was a lot less coverage and a lot less known about the conditions back then and therefore less people diagnosed with it, however it cannot be denied that the number of young people with these mental health issues is concerning.

It seemed fitting to choose mental health for my column on Mental Health Awareness Week. The Mental Health Foundation do an outstanding job raising awareness and fighting the stigma surrounding the mental health issues that affect one in four of us today.

Social media is certainly an overwhelming contributory factor. Social media is a powerful tool with 91% of 16-24 year olds using the internet for social media purposes and it should be used for good, for relationship and community building, or for self-expression and self-identity.

However for all of its benefits, recent studies have raised serious concerns about the possible detrimental effect frequent use is having on young people’s mental health.

One in six people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lives and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) state that young people have indicated that social media platforms make their anxiety worse. Spending two hours a day on social media, seeing friends on holiday or on nights out, can lead to psychological distress.

Young people often compare themselves to heavily edited or staged photographs which can lead to increasing feelings of inadequacy.  The unrealistic expectations set by social media may lead to self-consciousness and low self-esteem and the pursuit of perfection is leading to anxiety disorders.

I have joined the RSPH in their calls for a pop-up warning users when they have reached a certain usage and also their calls for platforms to highlight when photos have been heavily digitally manipulated.

Essentially it will take a collective effort. It is not right that 7 in 10 young people have experienced cyberbullying and it is down to the social media platforms as well as schools, youth workers and politicians to take responsibility and promote safe social media use.