The Murdoch press is once again in full cry against the alleged evils of social media this morning, with the Sun telling readers “Social Media Damaging Kids … Mental health alert over apps … SAD FACEBOOK”. As ever, when it’s the Murdoch mafiosi, it’s all about Facebook. But they have real evidence to back it up, apparently: “Facebook and Instagram are damaging children’s mental health, major study warns”.
So what do the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker have to tell us? “SOCIAL media raises children’s risk of mental health problems by up to half, a major study suggests … Social media use exposes teenagers to cyber-bullying, harms sleep and stops them exercising, the researchers warn”. No shit, Sherlock. And there is more.
“Checking Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat weekly means the risk of suffering ‘psychological distress’ is up to 20 per cent … Logging in as little as four times a day can raise the danger by half again, the study of more than 10,000 children shows … Teenage girls who check Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat weekly have a 20 per cent risk of psychological distress, it shows”. As opposed to what risk if they don’t check it?
Ah, but that would distract from kicking Facebook. So on goes the Sun: “The findings come from the first major study look at how heavy social media use may damage mental health. It involved more than 10,000 English youngsters aged 13 to 16 … They say parents should not be endlessly telling children to get off their phones and tablets … Instead, they should ensure children get eight to ten hours’ sleep and insist they exercise”.
Which suggests the study is not just about the supposed evils of social media. And it gets worse, as the Sun tells readers “But with half of all mental illness starting before the age of 14, Dr Louise Theodosiou, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said social media giants must do more to protect kids”. The article linked is from two years ago. It has nothing to do with the study the paper is referencing.
Worse still is that one look at the study - the Sun at least admits “The findings are in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health” - shows that something is missing. The background to the study explains “There is growing concern about the potential associations between social media use and mental health and wellbeing in young people. We explored associations between the frequency of social media use and later mental health and wellbeing in adolescents, and how these effects might be mediated”. Do go on.
And the interpretation of the findings tells “Mental health harms related to very frequent social media use in girls might be due to a combination of exposure to cyberbullying or displacement of sleep or physical activity, whereas other mechanisms appear to be operative in boys. Interventions to promote mental health should include efforts to prevent or increase resilience to cyberbullying and ensure adequate sleep and physical activity in young people”. But it does not cite any social media app. Not one.
No mention of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or indeed any other app. After all, the cyberbullying could be coming from anywhere online - including the comments section of newspaper websites. Like the Sun. But that would not fit the Facebook bashing agenda.
This is a typically misleading and dishonest exercise. I’ll just leave that one there.
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