A new research suggests that when it comes to young people’s mental health, Instagram is the most damaging social media platform.
According to a U.K.-wide study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the social media platform most likely to cause young people to feel depressed, anxious and lonely, is the photo-sharing app, which is owned by Facebook and has 700 million users worldwide.
Resulting in poor body image and lack of sleep, young people were most likely to associate Instagram with negative attributes and low self-esteem, the RSPH found in a survey of almost 1,500 Britons aged 14 to 24.
Also seen as a close contender, and most likely to leave users feeling bullied or left out by their peers was Snapchat, the ephemeral photo messaging app.
“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, who conducted the #StatusOfMind report in collaboration with the Young Health Movement (YHM).
Instagram said it is working closely with experts to enhance the app to provide mental health support and that it remains dedicated to keeping the platform a “safe and supportive place” for users.
“Keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, is our top priority – particularly when it comes to young people,” said Michelle Napchan, Instagram head of policy, EMEA.
“That’s why we work in partnership with experts to give people the tools and information they need while using the app, including how to report content, get support for a friend they are worried about or directly contact an expert to ask for advice on an issue they may be struggling with.”
When assessed against 14 statements relating to health and well-being, the app otherwise scored well for enabling self-expression and self-identity.
Meanwhile, positive attributes, such as developing awareness, enabling self-expression and proving young people with emotional support, are most likely to be promoted by Google-owned YouTube. However, it was considered the most detrimental to young people’s sleeping patterns.
Emerging divisive in their impact on young people’s mental well-being were both Facebook and Twitter. Though they were both also seen to lead to bullying and depression, both platforms were considered positive for self-expression and community building.
The RSPH has called on companies to do more to tackle its adverse effects of young people and has issued a series of recommendations with social media’s global presence showing little signs of abating.
Disclosures indicating when a photo has been digitally enhanced and introducing a pop-up warning to notify young people when they have been using the app for an extended period can be included.
“As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing,” said Cramer.
(Adapted from CNBC)