‘Use social media in moderation’
ENGAGEMENT in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can build up children’s resilience and have a beneficial impact on mental well-being, a new study suggests, despite previous warnings to the contrary.
Analysis of evidence from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, by researchers from the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and other independent studies into the effects of technology on young people, found that using social media helped children to develop social skills, collaborate better with peers and access help and emotional support more easily.
Teenagers with mental health problems are also increasingly likely to seek support from charities such as Childline through the internet, researchers noted.
Their report, published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), follows a commitment made by the prime minister in the Queen’s Speech to make mental health a government priority, amid growing concern of a “crisis” in schools and universities.
“Studies have also identified some evidence of a beneficial impact on well-being, and young people recognise the value of opportunities to connect online,” researchers concluded.
There are, however, several risks involved for teenagers corresponding online, including increased risk of cyber bullying, sharing of private content and access to harmful content.
More than a third of 15-yearolds in the UK can be classed as “extreme internet users”, spending more than six hours online a day, markedly higher than the average of OECD countries. Young people in the UK are also extensive users of social media sites, with 94.8% of British 15-year-olds using social media before or after school, slightly above the OECD average.
The evidence points towards a correlation between extreme use of social media and harmful effects on young people’s well-being. Those classed as “extreme internet users” were more likely to report being bullied (17.8%) than moderate internet users (6.7%).
Moderate use of social media was advised, therefore, with more research to understand the “causal relationship” between social networking and problems with mental health.
Government ministers have been unable to keep up with the fast-changing nature of the web, EPI analysts added, meaning that responses to protect and build resilience in young people are “inadequate and often outdated”.
“This report points to the need for a greater understanding of how to build resilience in young people as they navigate this relatively uncharted territory,” said David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI. – The Independent