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iHV supports call to promote the positive aspects of social media for young people

19th May 2017

The iHV welcomes and supports the call from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement (YHM) for action by the next UK Government and social media companies to help promote the positive aspects of social media for young people.

The RSPH and YHM have today (19 May 2017) published a report examining the positive and negative effects of social media on young people’s health; including a league table of social media platforms according to their impact on young people’s mental health. YouTube tops the table as the most positive, with Instagram and Snapchat coming out as the most detrimental to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director iHV commented:

With social media becoming ever more embedded in the lives of so many young people, evidence is showing that there may be potential harm to young people’s mental health and wellbeing from heavy use and it is important that some action is taken to protect them.

As these young people become the next generation of adults and, ultimately parents themselves, we need to better understand how best to shape and use the digital future to improve connections and communications and minimise any potential harms. There are many positive aspects of social media networking. However, with some social media platforms being very image-focused, this may drive feelings of anxiety and inadequacy which, in turn, may impact a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.

Through home visits, health visitors are well placed to give support and advice to parents and families on many aspects of growing up, and the importance of mental good health and wellbeing of all children, from babies through to the teenage years. This can include advising on the benefits and hazards of social media and over use of electronic devices.

RSPH and YHM are now calling for action from government and social media companies to help promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media – seven in 10 (71%) young people surveyed by RSPH support this recommendation.
  • Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts, and discretely signpost to support – four in five (80%) young people support.
  • Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated – more than two-thirds (68%) of young people support.
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