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  1. ITV Report

Social media overuse blamed for big increase in teenage anxiety

How much is too much? Photo: PA

If you'd mentioned Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Facebook to a teenager 10 years ago, you'd probably have been met with a blank look. But for many of today's teenagers, and some younger children, these sites have become an essential part of daily life.

"My whole life is on social media. Every time my friend texts me I've got to see it straightaway cos it might be something important."

– Abby, aged 13

Abby is typical of a generation in which most teenagers - and many younger children - own a smartphone, and most use social media sites frequently.

But what happens if young people become addicted to these sites?

In 2015, the Office for National Statistics found that children who spend three or more hours per school day on social media sites are more than twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health.

ITV News spoke to 'Sarah' (not her real name). From the age of 12, social media slowly began to take over her life:

"If you put a photo up and it got lots of good comments, it felt great: you'd get these little dopamine hits. But when you didn't get those on the next picture, it's like 'What have I done wrong?' It got to the point where I couldn't go out a lot because I felt judged."

– 'Sarah', now aged 18

Sarah eventually overcome her addiction with the aid of one-to-one counselling. According to Teens in Crisis, the Forest of Dean charity that helped Sarah, hers is not an unusual case:

"We are seeing a massive increase in anxiety. Two or three years ago, about 50% of all young people we were seeing would be presenting with anxiety. Today it's 75%. And a lot of that, though not all of it, we do put down to the increase in the use of social media."

– Judith Bell, Lead Counsellor at Teens in Crisis

If your teenager is struggling to manage their social media use, Teens in Crisis has put together five top tips.

Watch them here:

ITV West Country has spoken to local school pupils aged 11-15 to find out about their experiences of social media.

Watch the full report below, including our interview with Sarah:

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