Young Australians say they feel like their mental health is getting worse.
According to new research, one of the main reasons for this rise in negative cognitive health is down to social media.
The majority of young Aussies believe their mental health is worsening due to social media
62% of young Australians said in a survey by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation they believe their mental health is declining.
37% blamed Facebook and Instagram and 18% said they felt under pressure at school or from their family.
Jason Trethowan, CEO at headspace says youngsters need to be able to access resources to help them build up resilience and also find support.
“We know mental health is complex and there are many factors that contribute to a young person’s wellbeing,” he said.
“But it’s clear from the research that social media is something young people have strong opinions about and it’s something that appears to be creating more pressure day to day.
“A young person’s real-world persona and online persona are so intertwined these days so for example, if they’re being vulnerable online or sharing something personal and not getting the reaction they were hoping for, it can be really upsetting.”
Jason also cited exposure to things like cyberbullying and youngsters drawing comparisons between their own life and that of their peers.
“We need to be clear about the fact that these platforms are designed in a specific way to keep young people online, and that reducing use is not always as simple as it sounds,” he added.
“We need to raise awareness about the impacts of social media overuse, and support young people to develop the skills they need to handle these new and evolving challenges.
“There are only so many hours in the day and if time spent online is taking away from things that offer balance and a healthy mind frame, that’s where we run into problems.”
Social media is damaging our children warns another study
Frequent social media use exposes teenagers to cyber-bullying, affects their sleep and stops them from exercising say experts from another study by The Lancet child and adolescent health.
Checking Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat weekly means the risk of suffering “psychological distress” goes up by up to 20%.
10,000 UK kids aged 13 to 16 were analysed as part of the experiment and experts found that social media affects girls more than it does boys.
Unlike their male peers, girls are more likely to over share personal information or post false information about themselves or others, increasing the possibility of experiencing a bad reaction from peers such as bullying or negative comments.
Lead researcher Professor Russell Viner, from University College London, said: “While we obsess a lot about social media, how much do we obsess about how much our young people sleep? Not very much.”
“Our results suggest that social media itself doesn’t cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyber-bullying,” study co-author Russell Viner of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health said in a statement.
Dr Louise Theodosiou, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said social media giants must do more to protect kids.
She said: “We’ve seen a worrying rise in low mood and depression among girls and young women in recent years.
“This paper helps our understanding of the link between social media use and mental health problems.”
Where to get help
Kids Helpline (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25) – call the Parentline number for your state or territory
headspace (mental health service for ages 12-25) – call 1800 650 890 or chat online
SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness and their carers) – call 1800 18 7263
ReachOut.com (youth mental health service) – visit the website for info or use the online forum.
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