Mental Health and Social Media

Social media and mental health: Exploring the positive and negative impacts on adolescents from an interdisciplinary perspective

Tiger Team 2018-2019

m h and social media

Events

Michelle O'Reilly delivered a lecture at the 'WT ISSF Symposium 2018: Interdisciplinary Health Research in the Midlands' on Social media and mental health: Exploring the positive and negative impacts on adolescents from an interdisciplinary perspective.

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The Project

There is growing concern about the possible deleterious effects of social media on adolescents’ mental health. The rhetoric of risk is frequently perpetuated through media reports, parental fear, and educational policy. However, despite national and international concern about young populations in the digital age, evidence is emerging that many adolescents are digitally literate, resilient online, and capable of safeguarding their personal interest, but vulnerable groups may require more attention (Livingstone et al., 2011).

The focus of our research was the relationship between social media and mental health from key stakeholders’ perspectives; adolescents, educationalists and mental health practitioners. Framed by a child-centred approach, we placed young people’s voices as central. Six focus groups were conducted over three months with 54 adolescents aged 11-18 years, from London and Leicester; two groups with educationalists and two with mental health practitioners. Findings demonstrated that adolescents reified and repeated the negative discourses of social media, identified it as causal for mood/anxiety disorders, a platform for cyberbullying and a source of addiction. However, such constructions tended to be positioned as third-party attributions rather than personal experiences. They also demonstrated a positive impact, i.e., reducing stress and promoting relaxation. An unexpected finding, was that young people wanted to learn more about mental health and social media, wanted more support for their difficulties and felt that this was the responsibility of teachers, a position resisted by educationalists. An overview of the project was presented along with the core findings, and the important implications for the rhetoric of risk and education.

Team Lead

Michelle O’Reilly (School of Psychology; School of MCS; & LPT)

Publications from the project:

  1. O’Reilly, M., Dogra, N., Hughes, J., Reilly, P., George, R., and Whiteman, N. (in press). Potential of social media in promoting mental health in adolescents. Health Promotion International
  2. O’Reilly, M., Dogra, N., Whiteman, N., Hughes, J., Eruyar, S., and Reilly, P. (in press). Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
  3. O’Reilly, M., Adams, S., Whiteman, N., Hughes, J., Reilly, P., and Dogra, N. (in press). Whose responsibility is adolescent mental health in the UK? The perspectives of key stakeholders. School Mental Health
  4. O’Reilly, M., Svirydzenka, N., Adams, S. and Dogra, N (2018). Review of mental health promotion in schools. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 53(7), 647-662
  5. O’Reilly, M., Dogra, N., Hughes, J., Reilly, P., Whiteman, N. (2017). Written evidence for Parliament: Mental health in schools. Available from: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/health-committee/children-and-young-peoples-mental-healththe-role-of-education/written/45583.pdf
  6. O’Reilly, M. (2018). Social media and mental health: Exploring the positive and negative impacts on adolescents from an interdisciplinary perspective. Meeting in the middle: Interdisciplinary health research in the Midlands, ISSF Symposium, Leicester.
  7. O’Reilly, M. (2018). Respecting adolescent autonomy or encouraging parental surveillance: The dilemmas of young people’s engagement with ‘anti-social’ media. Surveillance, social media and identity, October conference; Demontfort University.

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