Tonight: Teenage Lives Online

Tonight: Teenager Lives Online, ITV at 7:30pm Credit: ITV / Tonight

“Teenage lives online; could social media be affecting their mental health?”

Social media is an integral part of many teenagers’ lives; with apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allowing them to keep in touch with their friends twenty four seven. But what impact is this having on how our teenagers are feeling? How much is social media affecting their lives?

Father and News Presenter Mark Austin has been investigating the online lives of teenagers, and asks is social media affecting their mental health.

For many teenagers, social media dominates their digital world. Time online is now as much a part of their social life, as face-to-face interaction. We brought together a group of eight teenagers to talk about their experiences online, and how important social media is to them.

From the minute I wake up I check my social media sites till the minute I go to bed”

Olivia Worthington

If I wasn’t able to talk to my friends or game with them it would just be horrible”

Finn Bracegirdle

I know I wouldn’t have as many friends if I wasn’t online”

Kiandra Basnett

It makes me feel not alone when I am alone”

Sam Sutton

A survey carried out for ITV’s Tonight programme shows that 55% of parents are concerned about the time their teen spends online, but should they be worried?

While none of our teenagers were showing any ill effects, psychologist Dr Aric Sigmund says teenagers should spend a maximum of 2 hours recreational time online.

One of the main problems is the content, what they are seeing and what, for example girls are seeing, are people who are slimmer than they are, people who are having a better time than they are, people who have more friends on line than they do and it seems to distort a natural social comparison process. And the comparison between myself and the things I am seeing on the screen and I don't come off feeling very well, I don't look as good I am not having as good a time, and it leads some young people to feel depressed”

Dr Aric Sigman

Nineteen year old Danny Bowman hit the headlines for being ‘obsessed with taking selfies’. At it’s height he was taking hundreds of photos a day, and for six months never left the house as he tried to find perfection. Danny was suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder. A mental illness that causes the person affected to have a distorted view of themselves.

Danny Bowman Credit: ITV / Tonight

I couldn’t find any I was pinpointing every little thing from a blemish to my nose was too big to my hair looked sort of flat. I was looking in the mirror for ten hours a day, I was moisturising constantly, and using a full tube of spot cream a day and I took loads and loads of pictures, Its hard to talk about because it was one of the most awful times of my life. I have never you know, from a person who was a really sort of happy boy played rugby, to a boy that couldn’t leave the house”

Danny Bowman

Danny had received negative comments on some of his ‘selfie’s’; and thinks social media escalated his condition.

If it wasn’t for social media and it wasn’t for me putting them photos on and people being able to respond to them photos a lot of the time not very nicely, so quickly, I don't think I would have had that same momentum that I did towards the you know destructive lifestyle that I sadly got into”

Danny Bowman

But things aren’t all bad. The charity Childline now report that 78% of people contacting them about mental health, suicide, and self-harm now do so, online.

One psychiatrist from the Priory believes social media can help young people.

If they are using it to increase their network of friends or if they are using it to find people who share their interests I think that can be very positive. It’s a very useful way of reducing isolation, which for many young people is a major problem”

Dr Paul McLaren

We brought the ‘Self Esteem Team’ to meet our eight teenagers. Natasha Devon, Grace Barrett and Nadia Mendoza tour the country helping teenagers to improve their self-esteem. They got our eight teenagers to give each other compliments face to face, and for those on the receiving end of the compliments to graciously accept them.

The Self Esteem Team Credit: ITV / Tonight

In any average British classroom three of the students will be self harming one in ten of them will develop an eating disorder before they reach twenty five, forty seven percent of teenage girls say that their relationship with their body is so fractious it stops them from doing things like participating in sport, presenting to class, even raising their hand in class. It’s clipping their wings these kinds of issues”

Natasha Devon

Face to face communication is now being peppered with screen-to-screen communication. How significant a part social media plays in teenagers lives, and how much they should use, it is now creating a growing debate.