Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to develop mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, feelings of self-consciousness and low self-esteem, according to research published by American psychiatry journal, JAMA.
During Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place in October, Fourways-based non-profit Witkoppen Clinic has raised concerns about the impact of social media on teen mental health.
“Seeing people constantly on holiday or buying expensive things can make young people feel like they are missing out while others are enjoying life. These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude, which leads teens to search for ways to make their lives more ‘insta-worthy’,” says Tamsyn Nash, specialist clinic medical officer at Witkoppen Clinic.
Youth from all over South Africa are accessing social media and consuming content that promotes material wealth and sets unrealistic expectations of what life is supposed to be like.
“This can have a negative impact on a teen’s mental health, as they start to feel their lives are not as good as those portrayed online,” says Nash.