YOUNG people “lack self-awareness” in assessing the medium- to long-term effects of social media on their mental well-being, a new report says.
The report, Gen Z: Digital generation, published by Youth for Christ, says: “Many young people do not recognise that they might be addicted to their social-media accounts or that social media may increase anxiety.
“Generation Z seems to focus upon the immediate effects of social media as positive and calming, without giving much consideration to the longer-term implications upon who they are.”
Of the 1001 teenagers interviewed for the study, 56 per cent said that social media made them happier: less than five per cent said that they felt more anxious or less confident respectively.
The report says: “There is a possibility that this generation have become so acclimatized to digital dependency and anxieties associated to social media that they are no longer recognised on their radar.
“Those of us who were born before Generation Z may now be the last generations to know what it is to live without digital dependence and its characteristics as a generation norm, therefore we hold a responsibility to watch and respond.”
YouTube was the most popular social medium chosen by participants: 41 per cent of those interviewed chose it as their top social-networking platform, followed by 17 per cent who chose Facebook, and 14 per cent who chose Snapchat.
The report argues: “Whilst other generations might visit YouTube to consume, this generation see themselves much more as curators and collaborators in this space.
“It is important that we note this as we look to lead and invest in this generation, they are not a generation who accept things done ‘to them’ but may respond well to an invitation to create together.”
The report also argues that social-media and online dependency has changed the way in which young people think about relationships with their peers.
As many as 52 per cent of the young people interviewed said that they considered only the people they knew from online platforms as friends.
“When asked,” the report says, “most young people said that it was their friends with whom they would normally communicate online. However, when this was further pushed into it appears that there are huge gaps in how they view their online relationships with those with whom they interact.
“It may be that the language of friendship and relationship needs redetermining for this generation as they build connections online.”
Read about Generation Y here.