E-Safety Bulletin #5

The good, the bad and the fake

Did you know that every 60 seconds on the internet 65,000 photos are uploaded to Instagram, 210, 000 snaps are uploaded to SnapChat and 400 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube? (i Newspaper, 2018). There is no doubt that the effect social media has on today’s society is inescapable. However as its most prolific users, is the impact social media has on young people positive or negative?

In a recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), 95% of headteachers said that they felt the mental health and wellbeing of a proportion of their pupils had suffered as a result of social media use, with many saying more than half of their pupils were affected. 93% of headteachers had received reports of pupils experiencing low self-esteem as a result of seeing idealised images and experiences, and 96% had received reports of pupils missing out on sleep as a result of social media use (ASCL Online Survey, 2018). In fact more and more schools are having to deal with the consequences and effects of social media use to ensure their pupils are happy, healthy and thus able to learn productively. 

According to a report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), high social media use (2 hours a day or more) is linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, poor sleep and issues with body image and low self-esteem #StatusofMind Report, 2017).

Last week in Fourth Form PSHE, we discussed the positives and negatives of social media and explored how it can affect our mental wellbeing. We looked at examples, including the below images of bikini model Natasha Oakley, to discuss how people use techniques such as particular poses, camera angles, lighting, filters and of course ‘photoshopping’ to portray perfection.

Natashaoakley

(Mail Online, 2016)

We discussed how people’s lives online are often ‘curated’ and only show the very best snapshots, rather than reality. This can result in people having low self-esteem as they feel like they aren’t as attractive and/or their lives are not as interesting. It can also mean that people suffer anxiety or become depressed as they feel constant pressure to make their lives look exciting and gain as many followers or likes as possible.  

To combat this, it is important for young people to understand how unrealistic it is to compare themselves to others – especially when many images online are in effect fake! They must remember that everyone has flaws and nobody has a perfect life, which is often what is depicted on social media. Having a healthy balance with technology is also vital and pupils in the session were encouraged to set aside ‘no-tech’ times during meals and when spending time with friends and family. As poor sleep can lead to states of poor mental health, we also discussed how the blue light omitted from mobile phones and tablets can actually reduce the sleep hormone melatonin. Therefore it is always a good idea to turn off all devices at least one hour before bedtime. Lastly we explored how social media can be used to express creativity and promote positive change, rather than just being superficial. Movements such as #TimesUp, #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter really demonstrate how social media can be used for good and not just a mechanism for advertising or making yourself look popular.

However there are positive impacts on users of social media too. The pupils in the session were able to identify lots of advantages to using social media such as being able to communicate with friends and family across the globe, and having a way of understanding what is going on in the world. The RSPH report also recognises the benefits of social media including improving access to expert health information, other people’s experiences of health and enabling young people to be more emotionally supported through their contacts.

Hence like many things in life, the best guidance for using social media seems to be ‘everything in moderation’.

Meryem Brook

Digital Learning Support Advisor