Instagram is the Most Negative Social Platform – But That Isn’t the Full Story

Jun 04, 2017

You may have heard the newswire loudly broadcast headlines from a new study #StatusOfMind stating that Instagram was the worst social platforms for teens, which is true as far as some aspects of the Instagram platform, but what was sorely missed by all the national media was the full story. I recognize that there are many concerning issues with Instagram, in fact, we recently blogged about how Instagram is a magnet for cyberbullying. However, even reputable news organizations did not take the time to share the results of a full study, instead, they were too busy newsjacking sensational headlines.

positive and negative social

Source: Status of Mind study

Parents need to understand the entire reality of the social platforms (good and bad) that impact all of our lives but especially our children. Social media use is highest among 16-24 years old and these years are also critical in the foundation of emotional and psychosocial development. In fact, numerous studies have identified these years of the teen brain development to be a period of significant changes in brain structure and function; especially sensitive to stimuli and lacking impulse control. Studies have also identified that social media is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

Not all the news is bad on the effects of social media on our children; social media can also promote a sense of community and even facilitate emotional support from friends your child has met in person or virtually. But due to the risks associated, if safeguards are not put in place, they can also have significant problems for young people’s mental health and well-being. Social media has forever changed the way we connect with each other, with social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram now used by one in four people worldwide. Most young people have never known a world without instant access to the internet and social platforms.

91 percent use of social media

Rating the Different Social Platforms

The #StatusofMind: Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health surveyed 14-24 year-olds asking them about five of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. Each participant was asked to rank the different platforms that impact their health and wellbeing, both positive and negatively. Results are listed below:

tube and twitter

book and snap

gram image

Each of the social media platforms profiled have both negative and positive attributes. Only you know your child and which platforms with the right boundaries and safeguards make sense for them to participate.

The Real Story the National Media Missed

The real story that was missed from the #StatusofMind study by both national media and digital bloggers are the truly brilliant recommendations that parents and technology companies need to embrace and support to bring about real change. I have highlighted below my four favorites:

  1. Pop-Ups for Heavy Usage Warning Message
    Social media is not going away but when certain levels of screen time are reached, a message should pop-up to let them know it may be time to step away from the screen. No one can dismiss the numerous studies that point out that social media, especially in excess, can have detrimental effects on the well-being of young children.

    A pop-up message would give young people data on their screen time consumption so they can make informed decisions on their own mental wellbeing. Almost one-third (30%) of the young people participating in the survey would embrace the idea of a heavy usage cap that would automatically log them out of social media if they breached a set level of usage.

    Seven in 10 (71%) young people support a pop-up usage warning on social media.

  2. Social Media Platforms to Highlight when Photo Has Been Digitally Manipulated
    If celebrities get outraged when their images are altered, shouldn’t the rest of us have the same platform? Young girls, in particular, are bombarded with images of photoshopped perfect bodies as the norm, resulting in a generation of young women with poor body images and body confidence. It’s time to end the era of body shaming. #StatusofMind suggests fashion brands, celebrities, and advertisers consider a small icon to indicate when a photo has been digitally enhanced or altered.

    More than two-thirds (68%) of young people support social media highlighting when a photo has been manipulated.

  3. Safe Social Media Should be Taught in School
    Almost every school has dedicated resources to teach a unit on human development, it used to be called Sex Education when I was in school. Schools should be required to also have a unit on the safe use of social media. Elements of the curriculum should include: cyberbullying, social media etiquette, body image and social media, and how to identify the signs of tech addiction.

    The authors of #StatusofMind report state, “The education system must evolve with the society in which it operates and equips our young people with the tools necessary to navigate the digital age in a way which protects their mental health and emotional wellbeing.”

    Eight in 10 (84%) of the young people in the survey support safe social media being taught in (PSHE) Personal, Social and Health Education.

  4. Social Media Platforms Need to Identify Users Who Could Have Mental Health Issues
    People who suffer from mental health issues can potentially harm themselves or others. The stigma that is associated with mental health issues makes it challenging for those suffering to feel comfortable to reach out for help or even recognize that then need help.

    #StatusofMind makes the following recommendation, “If social media is contributing to poor mental health in young people we should be utilizing the various platforms to reach out to those who are suffering.” Net Nanny has released a number of guides to help recognize and steps you can take if someone you love is self-harming.

    According to Jay N. Giedd, in an article Scientific American published on The Amazing Teen Brain, “Adolescence is the peak time of emergence for serval types of mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, psychosis and substance abuse. Surprisingly, 50 percent of the mental illnesses people experience emerge by age 14 and 75 percent start by 25.”

    4 in 5 (80%) of young people support social media platforms identifying ‘at risk’ young people by their posts.