It is the worst social network for the mental health of adolescents.
The most popular social networks are a source of innumerable benefits and advantages for their users, but they also generate unhealthy side effects.
A new study, conducted among young British people, focuses on a very particular problem: the well-being and mental health of users of these applications.
According to this work, Instagram could end up being the most harmful among adolescents, because of its impact on the psychological health of this most vulnerable age group.
Behind, although with negative notes, would be Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. The only network tested positively is YouTube, the video portal.
“Young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are more likely to suffer mental health problems, especially anxiety and symptoms of anxiety and depression,” says the study, conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health and the University of Cambridge.
To analyse the possible impact on British youth, scholars studied attitudes to these networks in 1,500 Britons aged 14-24.
We evaluated 14 factors, both positive and negative, in which these applications impact the life of this age group in which their personality is still in formation.
Instagram had bad effects in seven of these aspects: notably, young people recognized that this photo-sharing app negatively affects their self-esteem, their sleep hours and their fear of staying out of social events.
In addition, they believe that it encourages cyberbullying, which generates anxiety and, to a lesser extent, depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness.
“Instagram makes it easy for girls and women to feel like their bodies are not good enough while people add filters and edit their images to look perfect,” says one of the young people studied.
“The anonymous cyberbullying through Twitter on personal issues has led me to self-harm and to be afraid of going to school. Harassment on Instagram has led me to try to commit suicide and also to injure myself,” said one of the teenagers who participated in the study.
“The two made me experience depressive episodes and anxiety,” confesses a 16-year-old who also participated in the study.
Snapchat obtains almost as negative grades as Instagram, although it is more harmful for the hours of sleep and for the social anxiety that generates to miss social events.
In the negative ranking, Instagram and Snapchat are followed by Facebook, which is the most conducive network for cyberbullying, according to the study. Twitter slightly improves its grades in comparison to the other social networks and almost compensates its negative effects with its positive contributions.
YouTube, finally, is the least toxic, according to the survey, except in the case of hours of sleep: this portal to watch videos is the one that prevents young people from sleeping enough hours.
Not everything is bad in these networks: the most positive aspects highlighted by these apps were the ability to become aware, especially on YouTube, to express and find an identity, on Instagram and to create community and give emotional support on Facebook.
Although these aspects are considered as positive, they may be seen as negative from a different point of view: It means that teens do not get enough awareness in real life. It also means that their identity may be influenced by what is posted online instead of having the opportunity to form it naturally. Finally, it is also means that teens are not getting enough emotional from relatives, for example.
“Being a teenager is hard enough, but the pressures young people face online are certainly unique to this digital generation. It is vital that we intervene by putting preventive measures,” say the authors of the study.
The report proposes some of these measures, such as that users receive notification of the application itself advising them of overuse, that the network warns when a photo is manipulated or that training campaigns are carried out on these risks in the school environment.