Instagram rated worst for young people’s mental health

A study has found the social media site has the most negative impact on users.
A study has found Instagram has the most negative impact on users.Getty Images

Social media site Instagram has come under fire from mental health experts for putting young users at risk of suffering mental health issues, according to a new survey.

The British study polled close to 1,500 people aged between 14 and 24 on which social media platforms had the most effect on their health and well-being.

The Royal Society for Public Health asked respondents to rate each site on a range of issues including anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.

The results of the online survey revealed Instagram rated the most negatively on seven measures for its impact on sleep, body image, fear of missing out, bullying, and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.

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The image-based site did better in other areas though such as self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

Picture-focused platform Snapchat ranked second behind Instagram for its impact on mental health, followed by Facebook and Twitter.

Youtube was considered the most positive with high scores in categories like awareness, empathy towards others health, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the RSPH, said: “It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

The study called for changes to be made to increase social media mental health safety. These include warning pop-up flagging heavy use; social media site identifying users with mental health problems and discreetly signposting support, and highlighting when photos have been digitally altered.

It’s up to parents to role-model responsible online behavior. Photo: Getty Images

Sean Lyons, director of outreach at Netsafe NZ said young people were vulnerable to the effects of technology, especially they’re were using it in excess, and neglecting other areas of their lives.

“Netsafe is asking parents during Bullying-free NZ Week to think about the kind of example they’re setting for their children with their own online behaviour.

“Also, keep in mind the tech steps that can be taken if a young person is experiencing harmful behaviour online,” Lyons said. “Teaching young people how to block, report, unfriend or unfollow can give them the tools they need to use social media safely.”

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