Youth face huge social media strain
● More than half of 16- to 25-year-olds feel ‘overwhelmed’ with the pressure
Young adults claim they feel “overwhelming pressure” due to posts on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
A new poll run by the Prince’s Trust found 60 per cent of 16- to 25-yearolds in Scotland feel under strain from social media.
More than half of 16- to 25-year-olds in Scotland think social media creates an “overwhelming pressure” on young people to succeed, a leading charity has declared.
The tenth Prince’s Trust ebay Youth Index released today found 60 per cent of young people said they believed they were under strain due to sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Youth Index supported by ebay is a national survey that gauges young people’s happiness and confidence across areas from their working life to physical and mental health.
The latest report – based on an online survey of 2,162 young people across the UK aged 16 to 25 – finds the overall index score has flatlined at its lowest level in a decade. The report finds just under half (49 per cent) of youngsters in the age range say comparing their life to others on social media makes them feel “inadequate”.
Kate Still, director of the Prince’s Trust Scotland, said it was “concerning” there had been no improvement in the way young people in Scotland were feeling about their lives and mental health over the past year. She said: “It is disheartening to see that the Youth Index score in Scotland has taken a significant dip.
“Since the Youth Index launched a decade ago, social media has become an overwhelming presence in young people’s lives.
“This research suggests it could be exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time. Young people are critical to the future
success of our communities and country and can realise their full potential if supported to believe in themselves.
“It is critical that employers, government, charities and wider communities work together to support young people to build their resilience, confidence and selfesteem.”
Published at a time when comparison with peers online seems inescapable for many young people, the report reveals how more than half (52 per cent) of young people in Scotland feel more anxious about their future when comparing themselves to others on social media.
More than a third (38 per cent) of young Scots worry they will never be as happy as the people they see on social
media. Almost one in six (15 per cent) “always” or “often” feel “panicked” when seeing the lives of their friends online.
Children’s minister Maree Todd said: “We need to ensure young people are kept safe and well at all times – and that includes when accessing social media. That is why we encourage parents to ensure they are informed about what their children view online.
“Our child internet safety action plan has steps to ensure appropriate training, support and information is in place for young people, parents and teachers. It also sets out our commitment to continue work with social media providers to ensure children are not exposed to harm.”
Facebook, Instagram and other social media have become part of everyday life with astonishing rapidity. So unintended consequences should perhaps have been expected.
One of the worst “side-effects” has been the impact on children and young people. The death of 14-yearold Molly Russell, who took her own life after looking at posts on Instagram about self-harm, was a most extreme example. But Molly was very far from alone as a child whose life was adversely affected.
Today the Prince’s Trust publishes a survey that provides the latest evidence of the dangers, with 60 per cent of 16- to 25-year-olds saying they felt under “overwhelming pressure” because of such websites.
Adam Mosseri, the boss of Facebook-owned Instagram, has now admitted the website is “not yet where it needs to be” in handling content about self-harm and suicide. The “mainstream media” has come under attack from some quarters, but none of us would ever have published the utterly appalling material available on social media.
As the publishers, social media firms cannot escape their moral duty to ensure the most basic standards of decency. The best that can be said about their rhetoric around freedom of speech is that it was naive; the worst is that it was deliberately so for cost reasons.
Companies have made fortunes by developing sophisticated ways for others to sell us things, from second-hand cars to political ideas and fake news, so they should be smart enough to protect children from those who want to do them harm. That’s priority number one.
They also need to do more to help young people cope with this rather frightening new world they have created, particularly as even politicians hardened by the “rough-andtumble” of public debate have been struggling. It is obvious that children are much more likely to wilt if exposed to this road rage-style phenomenon – the occasional humiliations of the playground turned from a fleeting moment into what may seem like a life-changing event.
And we all need to develop a greater understanding of the subtler pressures, such as the feelings of inadequacy prompted by comparing your life to the apparently wonderful ones of social media stars.
Such “influencers” may also need to take a look at themselves – in a philosophical sense, not another selfie. Taking cash to promote products without declaring it may not be the worst of their sins.
0 The report finds 49% of youngsters say comparing their life to others on social media makes them feel ‘inadequate’