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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.