Instagram and Snapchat are the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health, and YouTube is the most positive, a new study suggests.
The ranking comes in a report from the British Royal Society for Public Health, which ranked the sites’ impact on young people.
“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues,” said Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the RSPH.
“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well being, both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”
For the study, researchers surveyed about 1,500 young people age 14 to 24 from Britain, asking them to score the impact social media sites had on 14 “health and well-being” issues. Those include anxiety, depression, quality of sleep, body image, loneliness and real-world friendships and connections.
Teenage girls check their phones at Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City, New York. /AP
According the RSPH, YouTube was the most positive, followed by Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
“Social media has dramatically shifted how we socialize, communicate, and form relationships with each other,” said Laci Green, a professional health YouTuber with 1.5 million subscribers. “Its impact cannot be understated.”
She added that since Instagram and Facebook “present highly curated versions of the people we know and the world around us, it is easy for our perspective of reality to become distorted.”
To combat the negative influence of social media, the researchers recommend adding pop ups that warn users of heavy usage, which was supported by 71 percent of the people surveyed.
Another recommendation is for social media companies that can tell from a user’s post that they’re in distress could discretely point them toward help. That was supported by 80 percent of those surveyed. Finally, nearly 70 percent said social media sites should note when a photo has been manipulated.
“As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and well-being,” said Cramer. “We want to promote and encourage the many positive aspects of networking platforms and avoid a situation that leads to social media psychosis which may blight the lives of our young people.”