Playing Out Reports

The impact of social media on young people

Today Victoria Goodyear and her team at the University of Birmingham are publishing a comprehensive report looking at young people, social media, health and wellbeing.  The report develops from workshops in 2017 that the Wellbeing Team, along with a range of social media, health and wellbeing experts from across the world in which we examined new evidence from over 1300 young people on how they engage with social media and report impacts on their health and wellbeing.  We also explored evidence-based video resources, guidelines and actions that were created with key stakeholders to help parents, practitioners and policy makers to better support young people.

The key findings presented in the report are:

  • Social media use impacts on young people’s physical and mental health: nearly half of young people in the sample reported they had changed their physical activity, body image or diet/nutrition behaviours as a direct result of content accessed from social media.
  • Different types of social media content have different impacts on young people: it  is important to understand peer content (e.g., selfies); reputable accounts (e.g. celebrities, government); recommended content (e.g. YouTube); commercial content; and ‘likes’ as all influence young people’s health-related knowledge and behaviours.
  • Young people are critical users of social media: most young people can judge the types of content that are relevant to their needs, and most swipe past content that has the potential to lead to harm.
  • Vulnerable young people can become even more vulnerable on social media: social media is a very powerful medium. If young people are vulnerable, for whatever reason, social media engagement can magnify those vulnerabilities and pose physical and mental health risks
  • Action is required by schools, parents/guardians, and policy makers: adults who have a responsibility for young people’s health and wellbeing must become sufficiently digitally literate to be able to help young people manage risk and generate positive health outcomes from social media

You can access the paper with loads more detail and the short and informative evidence-based videos that summarise the key findings here: – here’s one of the videos: