A new poll has been published that suggests Instagram might not be doing a kindness to young people's brains, after it rated as the worst social-media apps among young people for provoking anxieties over body image, bullying and loneliness.
According to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the photo-sharing site has negative implications for younger users and can put them at risk, suggesting that "social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis" in young people (via the BBC).
The warning comes following the results of a survey that asked 1,479 people aged 14-24 to score apps on issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.
The young people taking part were asked to consider issues including emotional support, sleep, self-expression, anxiety, community building and more.
Instagram rated the worst, having the poorest impact on sleep, body image, fear of missing out, bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. It was followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and then YouTube.
However, all is not bad, because Instagram was voted the best app for self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: "It's interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.
"As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people's mental health and wellbeing."
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told The Guardian: "I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.
"We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media - good and bad - to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message."
Instagram has more than 600 million active monthly users.
Readers affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans free on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
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