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Health visitors ‘should promote the positive side’ of social media to children

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Positive aspects of social media should be promoted to young people by health visitors to aid their mental health, according to a report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement (YHM).

YouTube tops a table in the report which ranks online sites by their positive effects on young people, with Instagram and Snapchat coming out as the most detrimental to young people’s mental health.

Welcoming the report, the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) called on health visitors to instil an awareness of the different aspects of social media in children from an early age to better reinforce them against the detrimental effects of certain outlets.

iHV executive director Cheryll Adams said: ‘With social media becoming ever more embedded in the lives
of so many young people, evidence is showing that there may be potential harm to young people’s mental health and well-being from heavy use, and it is important that some action is taken to protect them.

‘There are many positive aspects of social media networking. However, with some social media platforms being very image-focused, this may drive feelings of anxiety and inadequacy which, in turn, may impact a young person’s mental health and well-being.

‘Through home visits, health visitors are well placed to give support and advice to parents and families on many aspects of growing up, and the importance of mental good health and well-being of all children, from babies through to the teenage years. This can include advising on the benefits and hazards of social media, and overuse of electronic devices.’

The RSPH and YHM are now calling for action from the government and social media companies to help health services promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, while mitigating the potential negatives.

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