Questions continue to be asked about the real cost of social media on young people. Recent articles in the press have reported on its ‘impact’. The Guardian on Friday reported on the survey undertaken by the Young Health Movement that its use was having a negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people’s feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
This was highlighted by the recent case of the suicide of George Hessay, a teenager from Goole, East Yorkshire, who had been allegedly abused over the app, Sayat.me which we mentioned in our blog article earlier this month.
The report from Young Health has led to range of articles in the press but what caught my eye in the article was not the headline but the quote towards the end of the Guardians article from Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who said: “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.” This was reflected by comments seen on social media from other psychiatrist’s raising the same point.
It is very easy to blame the technology but we need to take a step back and consider how we help young people make sense of what they seeing through this media as well as how they should behave when they are using it. They look to this technology for their news, advice on worries and issues, entertainment and communication and this is leading to those who are seen as ‘leaders’ becoming role models and young people aspiring to live the same ‘perfect’ lives.
To those that use it, in many cases for gain in all its forms, they must consider the impact that it is having on a young audience as their behaviour has a far wider reach than it ever had before. With the amount of content posted every minute to these sites, we cannot rely on the providers to deal with the issues but we need to educate this and next generations on the issues that this behaviour can bring as well as helping them to deal with the potential problems.
I will leave you with a quote that has often been used but its source is really unclear according to those who research these things but I will use the Stan Lee’s Spider-man version “With great power there must also come–great responsibility!” Surely the ability to publish to the world is a great power?