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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Hewett

The Social Media Epidemic: SnapChat Edition

In my first Social Media Epidemic post covering the concerns of mental illness in relation to TicToc use in young women, we saw how frightening it can be for our younger population to have access to so many mixed messages about heavy life topics. As the mother of a young teenaged daughter, the information hit very close to home while conducting my research for the post.

Today I am examining another App that I hear about daily in my office, yet have never once used: Snap Chat. It is clear from my conversations with my adolescent clients that “Snap” is used in leu of texting for this generation, and that users can easily discover new contacts to connect with. “Friends of Friends” can have a very deceiving message of who or what is “safe” on the Internet.

Negative mental impacts from Snapchat include things like anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Looking at carefully filtered pictures of other teens and tweens can lead to body consciousness and eating disorders, fear of missing out, and bullying.

Social Media developers are certainly not unaware of the concerns posed by both professionals and parents. SnapChat, for example, has created a feature called “Here for you”, which users who are experiencing negative effects can navigate to and receive curated content and resources for support for their mental health.

But, is this enough? I’m pressed to believe that if a link in an app solved all of the mental health concerns of this generation then my counseling calendar would not be as full as it is! Exactly how screen time exposure changes the brain or whether these changes lead to more negative mental health outcomes has yet to be completely determine – but if they do, then the solution is not popping up mental health messages on social media.

Some of the pros identified in support of young adults on SnapChat have included the consideration that Snapchat is very creative

Users say the App is more about chatting with friends in real-time than posting status updates. ‘Snaps’ (messages sent to groups of friends) disappear after 10 seconds after they are opened. Stories remain for 24 hours, but can be saved to ‘memories.’ and shared as Chat Media. Kids report feeling “silly” and having innocent fun on the app using the Snapchat filters. The content length for Snapchat is quite short, making it fun to create and easy to consume.

On the contrary the concerns for younger users are very real and can have lasting impacts. The opportunity to have “streaks” on the app creates a competition of who has the most use on the platform, easily leading to obsessions or addictive usage. Many men and women have reported feelings of increased anxiety and depression with increased usage, citing issues such as body image, comparison, and other issues damaging to their self-confidence.

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) if usage decreases, as well as reports of Cyberbullying have been cited in multiple studies published on this issue. And, as reported in a previous post on Sleep, reports of significant decrease in both quality and quantity of sleep with increased social media use have been made across multiple platforms and several generations (not just adolescents).

The solution, instead, lies in limiting exposure. Further, the mental health benefit (if any) of such online messages itself remains unclear today. Left to their own devices – literally – can leave teens and young adults even more confused about their mental health than ever before.

All that to be said, it is important that I not leave out the fact that there can be benefits from use of these apps for our kiddos. Connection with friends, feeling a “part” of something, keeping up with conversation and being in the know about things their peers are talking about all contribute directly to healthy ways kids can interact with the world around them. Like most things, moderation is key and communication with your kids is vital.

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