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Social media can impact youth mental health, Psychologist cautions

An American clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kathrynn Mabalot, has warned that heavy social media use can have an impact on the mental health of young people.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and video sharing application TikTok continue to grow in popularity among youth in Samoa.

But California-based clinical psychologist, Dr. Mabalot told Samoa Observer in an interview that research shows the use of social media among youth can have both positive and negative effects on their mental health.

One of the benefits of social media platforms is their ability to connect with people around the world, she said, but its increased use also exposes its users to online threats such as cyberbullying.

“On the positive side, social media and other forms of technology have provided platforms for youth to connect with people all over the world however, without regulation of self-regulation of social media use; it can impact one’s mental health and well being,” she said. “Youth most especially are more susceptible to peer pressure, cyberbullying and the likes, which would trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research has shown that social media may lead to mental health issues and other detrimental effects by focusing on how many ‘likes’ they receive on a post.”

But the dangers of excessive social media use can be addressed if parents also get themselves involved in their children’s social media activities, according to Samoan TikTok user Al Chu-Ling.

Mr Chu-Ling, who has a wide following on the Chinese-made video sharing application, agreed that there were advantages and disadvantages on social media use and the online threats to children are real.

"Majority of Samoan teens have social media platforms and it comes with a few pros and cons. Communication is one of the most important keys of social media as you get to contact family and friends,” he said. "Information is very useful due to the fact that it helps us understand more about current affairs/events from around the world. However, there are some cons which include teens being exposed to cyberbullying and the fact that it isolates them from reality.”

The use of social media can also influence youth and impact on their behaviour, which Dr. Mabalot warned can lead to the loss of self esteem. 

“Social media may influence teens to make changes to their appearance or behaviors that they won’t otherwise make in order to get those likes. Such as using filters to make their appearance more socially desirable, which in turn may affect self-esteem or self-worth,” she added. 

A local businessman, who did not want to be identified, said internet accessibility has educational benefits but parents should guard their children against visiting inappropriate sites.

"I suppose if parents monitor their kids internet usage then I guess it would make things a bit safer," he said.

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