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How damaging is social media for young people?

Social media issues
Social media creates fake impressions of our life (National Public Radio)

Social media is a great place to be connected and have fun. However, its misuse could have very damaging effects on young people.

On social media, one of the main issues is sharing personal and sensitive information. Many users, including young people, don’t consider the information they are sharing online. Most of us don’t know how this information is going to be used for.

Another current problem online is around loneliness. Many young people are under pressure on social media.

Their promotion of their ‘perfect live’ online has also devastating effects on their well-being and mental health.

More time on social media increases loneliness

Two in five young people between 16-25 years old experienced loneliness in the UK because of social media in 2018, according to the BBC.

The Child Mind Institute released that from 13 to 66 percent of young people who spent most of their time on social media showed a higher rate of depression compared to those who didn’t.

Last year, the report of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) showed that many young people feel lonely because their friends were having fun without them online.

Meanwhile, others said that they are isolated and frustrated because their life is not like their friends online.

Tips to keep young people safe online

Protect yourself every time you are navigating online
(Ministry Information and Communication Singapore)

The recent case of the young girl, Molly Russell, who committed suicide after being exposed to self-harm images on Instagram and Pinterest has raised the alarms.

The following tips show a guideline to keep young people safe of this content and those who use social media to hurt them:

1. Set your profiles to private and don’t get complacent

Avoid that the whole world sees what you post online. Set your account to private where only friends and followers can see your content.

Big companies such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are constantly improving their privacy settings place. However, like anywhere else, there are still risks. Make sure you think carefully about your content before posting. Moreover a post online is never private.

2. Identify the fakes

Most of the time, we don’t know who is behind a like, comment, or share. There are many people online who want to hurt others, but especially young people.

Be aware of those who you don’t know and show a special interest in connecting with you. Ask for help to identify these fake accounts. Only accept the friend requests of people who you know.

NEVER meet someone online who you haven’t met before. Many people lie online about their age, sex, or even their location. Be aware of this every time you are on social media.

3. Clean your contact list

Having hundreds of followers doesn’t mean that everyone likes you. Check and remove anyone you no longer engage with. This will also help you to identify fake accounts.

4. Block anyone who disturbs you

If someone is bothering you online, you have a big problem. This could be the first step of cyber bullying. Block this person immediately. If the bullying continues, ask your family or the police for help. Take it seriously, you are in danger.

5. Protect your identity

Don’t share your phone, address, bank details or any other sensitive information. Make sure your passwords on social media are strong. Renew your passwords eventually and keep them private.

6. Avoid sensitive information

Be careful and aware of the information you send your friends. Avoid sharing on social media any information such as sexual images or video. Many young people have been victims of this content with terrible consequences for their image and integrity. Distrust suspicious messages

7. Distrust suspicious messages

Messages for example ‘Look at this picture’ or ‘OMG you cannot miss this video’ could be spam. Don’t click or access the content of these messages. Sometimes they have virus that could affect your device and create open access for someone else. Don’t open them even if it comes from young people you know.

8. Phishing emails are also a problem

They are fake communications pretending to be trusted organisations such as Facebook or other social media platforms. They can be very convincing.If you are not sure, search online the email address. Sometimes users can help you to identify fake accounts. You can also ask any adult for help.

How do we help young people?

One of the main issues that affect young homeless people is isolation. At YHNE we are conducting the pioneering project ‘About the Space’.

‘About the Space’ gives young people across the North East the opportunity to work together with architects to create a safe space for those who feel lonely. This project will be running during our current Youth Hub sessions in Newcastle and Middlesbrough

If you are between 14-25 years old and want to take part in this project get in touch at info@yhne.org.uk or on our social media channels.

If your organisation works with this age group and young people at risk of homelessness, get in touch at info@yhne.og.uk or call us at 0191 255 1911.

This article has been written based on the information of BBC, The Guardian, The Child Mind Institute, Sky News, and Kidscape.

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