The potential problems that use of social media can cause among adolescents should not be ignored, a Taipei-based psychiatrist warned after a British report said that Instagram has the most negative “net impact on young people’s health and well-being.”
Released on May 19, 2017, the report was conducted by UK-based charity the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement. From February to May that year, researchers surveyed 1,479 people aged 14 to 24 from across the UK.
Participants were asked the extent to which five social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube — made “health-related factors,” such as emotional support, anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep and self-expression, “better or worse.”
According to the report, titled #StatusOfMind, YouTube was the “most positive,” followed by Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
Social media use is highest among 16-to-24-year-olds, Chan Chia-chen (詹佳真), a psychiatrist at Taipei City Hospital’s Zhongxing branch, said on Tuesday.
This age group is also at a crucial period for development of self-identity and the establishment of emotional and mental health, Chan said.
While social media can provide young people with a good social network and emotional support, the problems it poses cannot be ignored, she said.
The report showed that insecurities people in the age group have about their bodies and appearance might be exacerbated by Instagram — a platform that prioritizes images, and is commonly used to alter and refine photographs of users, which can amplify negative emotions, she said.
Social media plays a crucial role in today’s society and appears to be more addictive than alcohol or cigarettes, said Yeh Ya-hsin (葉雅馨), director of the John Tung Foundation’s mental health division.
However, despite its negative effects, people can use social media for mental health promotion, providing others with care and support, or even self-management, Yeh said.
In the process of helping adolescents improve their mental health, results can usually only be achieved by empathizing with their thoughts and feelings, she said.
Social media platforms present an opportunity for others to communicate with them on their terms, she said.
Parents who want to be involved in their children’s Internet use should discuss with them about connecting on Instagram or other social media platforms, she said.
They should promise that they only want to share their lives and would not offer too many opinions or comments, Yeh said.
They should show self-restraint instead of expecting to use social media to control their children’s social lives or judge what they see, she said.
If parents notice signs of bullying or inappropriate expressions on social media, they can find opportunities to discuss the matter with their children at home instead of becoming involved in public arguments online, she said.
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