Children and young people in the UK live so much of their life online. As digital natives, their digital and offline lives are inextricably linked. The internet is an essential part of the next generation’s development. It is important that children can experience this incredible landscape safely, in a way that supports them to thrive.
However, we cannot ignore that social media is worsening young people’s mental health. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook deliver content to users according to algorithms that provided increasingly extreme content to retain engagement and increase profits.
For example, once a child has watched content relating to ‘self-harm’ they will be shown more and more, again and again, until they are viewing the most extreme and the most dangerous posts.
The algorithm is designed to be addictive. Children can get lost in an echo chamber of their own anxiety and destructive self-perceptions from which it is incredibly hard to escape. We have seen from the terrible tragedies of Molly Russell and Frankie Thomas that addictive dangerous content has fatal outcomes.
It is important that we support young people to build healthier relationships with the internet and social media.
This Mental Health Awareness Week we want to encourage parents and carers to check in with the young people in their life about how they are using social media.