Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. Many children are immersing themselves in a virtual world glued to their phones and apps.
It has become normal to wake up and check your Facebook feed, which has not changed from when logged off at 9pm. The days of sitting round the dinner table having meaningful conversations with your family, seem almost over.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found worrying evidence of a correlation between social media usage and the effects on mental health. Its study revealed that 27% of children who spend more than three hours a day on these sites show signs of mental health issues, compared to 12% who spend no time on social media platforms.
Casey Fleischmann, who is the social media manager at the Social Shop believes that social media is having an adverse psychological effect on children who are made to feel that there is a perfect way of looking.
“Children can see images that may not be true or reality,” explains Casey. “It can warp the mental view they have of themselves and others which has a negative response in the long run.”
Whilst not every child is fixated by technology and having the newest gadget available, there are more young people signing up for social media sites at younger ages and before they are even allowed to.
The social age report on the website Knowthenet found that 52% of 8-16 year- olds had signed up for Facebook underage and that 59% of children are using social networking websites by the age of ten. Considering that Facebook was only invented in 2004, it is staggering to think that its popularity has blown through the roof so quickly.
Social media manager, Casey suggests that children should not be using social media sites for more than two hours a day, yet a study by Common Sense Media found that teenagers spend more than three hours a day on the internet and this can have detrimental effects on their mental health.
it can warp the mental view they have of themselves”
Excessive social media usage inevitably results in sleep deprivation with children using their phones until the early hours. But a study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh concluded that, children who are heavy social media users are three times more likely to suffer from depression than light users.
Furthermore, a Michigan study analysing the effects of Facebook, found that the more people use Facebook, the less satisfied they are with their lives and so clearly it has a negative effect on the minds of children who are more likely to develop mental illnesses, if their usage is not controlled.
However, Sophie Gold, the Child Safety Online Assistant at NSPCC is a firm believer in the importance of social media and suggests that parents should just ensure that their children are being safe online.
“Social media can be an amazing thing and a great experience for children and young people.
“I think there needs to be more focus on teaching young people, parents and professionals how to help keep children safe on the internet rather than ensuring they come off social media completely.”
Mental health charities like Dorset Mind are working tirelessly to help young people with mental health issues and believe that social media is not helping.
Dee Swinton, Fundraising and Marketing manager at Dorset Mind said, “It’s quite prevalent now and I don’t think that’s going to stop.
“We find that a lot of them face bullying, other social pressures like body image and its 24/7 now. It doesn’t stop anymore.”
However, Dorset Mind are tackling the problem head on and have developed initiatives to help young people.
“We use social media a lot to raise awareness about mental health conditions,” explains Dee. “It’s a bit of a double edge sword for us.
“We try and put as many informative articles on our website and Facebook and Twitter so that people can refer to them.
“The voluntary sector is plugging the gap more and more.”
This social media craze has become an obsession and it appears that children are jumping on the bandwagon at a frightening pace, but at one which can have detrimental consequences on their future health if their usage is not controlled.