Social Media and Youth – The Double-Edged Sword

Social media. Since its introduction it has connected us, allowing us to share statuses, photographs and videos with friends and family at the click of a button. Social media has also given us online communities in which we can seek support from others on everything from instant pot recipes to physical and mental health concerns.  There is no question that social media can be regarded as a good thing, but what happens when we take a closer look, especially when it comes to social media use amongst adolescents, will we see a less than optimistic view?

According to a recent article, on social media and teen mental health, published by Psycom there is a correlation between social media use and an increase in depressive symptoms in youth. A large factor in the interconnection is how social media is being used along with the amount of time spent on the platforms. What it really comes down to is random mindless scrolling versus staying connected. Youth, like many of us, spend a great deal of time scrolling on their phones paying little attention to what they are seeing and how it might be impacting them. Let’s take a closer look at two of the potential consequences of random mindless scrolling, online harassment and highlight reels as well as the impact they have on mental well-being.

Online harassment, also known as cyberbullying is a major concern when it comes to social media use. Recent statistics published by Public Safety Canada indicate that 8% of Canadian Online Teens say that they have been victims of cyberbullying. Platforms such as Facebook or Twitter allow youth to interact with people they know, as well as with strangers, this makes it easy to fall prey to online harassment.  Cyberbullies, who can remain anonymous by hiding behind fake profiles use both public and private methods to intimidate or embarrass their victims. Online harassment is hard to escape due to 24/7 access to social media and can lead to reduced sleep, reduced physical activity, anxiety, and an increase in depressive symptoms.

The concept of social media as a highlight reel refers to users posting their best photographs or best life moments and leaving out the rest. Image-centric platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat allow access to countless filtered and altered photographs representing unrealistic, and unattainable beauty standards. At the same time status updates representing the #livingmybestlife moments create a false reality that is impossible to achieve. Continual exposure to these images and updates can lead to feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem and issues such as body dysmorphia, eating disorders, anxiety, and an increase in depressive symptoms.

Social media is here to stay! So now that we are aware of the dangers what can we do about it? It starts by encouraging youth to think and talk about how they use Social Media. Our Youth Safety Advisors are already doing this through the delivery of our Grade 6 Safety presentation which includes a section focusing on how to be safe online. Our Grade 8 Mental Health presentation takes it a step further by exploring tools that youth can use to build resiliency. For useful tips on how youth can have a more positive experience while using social media check out this link. Let’s work together to keep youth safe online!

To book an elementary school presentation or to let us know about a high school career day, please contact us at [email protected].  

 

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