Laptops, smartphones, and tablets have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, and many people have wondered if this is unhealthy. Parents worry that their children are being exposed to inappropriate content, behavior, or people while browsing the web. While predatory adults are still a concern for many parents, many more are noticing the deficits of another rising trend — social media.
While social media can be a valuable tool for young people to express themselves, connect with others, and be creative — it can also be the breeding ground for mental illness. According to the Telegraph, there is a growing number of minors that are being negatively effected by social media and the various communities there.
Sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram teem with communities toxic people, many of who try to bully others off the site. This cyberbullying can damage a young person’s self confidence and lead to depression. However, hateful people aren’t the only concern when dealing with social media. The technology itself and the peripheral advertisements and messages entering the user’s consciousness can have adverse effects.
Social workers who interact with young people, especially girls, have reported higher rates of self-consciousness and depression.
This is likely caused by the overwhelming presence of polished beauty gurus on sites such as Instagram and YouTube. With the constant pressure to look “perfect” and to adhere to certain standards of beauty, many girls feel anxious or depressed about their appearances.
“Three children in every classroom are thought to have a diagnosable mental health problem, which is approaching epidemic proportions,” Javed Khan — executive of Barnardo’s children’s charity — said. “The nature of ‘vulnerability’ is changing and it doesn’t respect class or privilege.”
“Across the country, there are children living in comfortable homes with their parents, who seem safe and secure but the moment they switch on their phone, tablet or computer, they enter a new realm where the usual rules, regulations and safeguards do not apply.”
As reported by another article published by the Telegraph, the negative effects of social media and cyberbullying have already taken lives. After being constantly “dogpiled” and harassed online, 17-year-old Felix Alexander took his own life. The worst part is that this story is not an isolated incident. There are hundreds of cases of children and teenagers harming themselves after being bullied online.
“We know through our specialist services how abusers destroy children’s lives and much more needs to be done to protect them,” Khan said. “Any delay could put future generations of children in danger.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.