Youth face huge so­cial me­dia strain

● More than half of 16- to 25-year-olds feel ‘over­whelmed’ with the pres­sure

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By KE­VAN CHRISTIE

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.

PIC­TURE: GETTY IM­AGES

0 The re­port finds 49% of young­sters say com­par­ing their life to oth­ers on so­cial me­dia makes them feel ‘in­ad­e­quate’

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