Time, young people and social media


Controlling how much time you spend on social media and your phone is key

Edwin McGreal

Between them, Niall Dunne and Peadar Gardiner deal with thousands of young people in the county on an annual basis.
Dunne is Manager of the Mayo Mental Health Association and Gardiner is Project Manager of Mindspace Mayo.
Both groups work closely with young people in the county on areas relating to mental health. They deliver presentations to 10,500 secondary school children and their organisations deal with mental health issues affecting young people in the county.
What both men agree on is that time spent on social media is often the crucial determinant in it moving from being beneficial to detrimental.
Gardiner references the My World Survey 2, a comprehensive study of young Irish people’s mental health and wellbeing, as instructive.
“Findings from the My World Survey 2 suggest that many adolescents and young adults may be using social media to build on and extend their social connections in real life, and there may be some benefits to spending time online,” he told The Mayo News.
“However, there was a significant relationship between time spent online (more than three hours) and higher levels of depression and anxiety and lower levels of body esteem.
“There are only so many hours in the day and if time spent online is taking away from things that offer balance and a healthy mind frame, that’s where we run into problems,” added Gardiner.
He said equipping young people with the right skills to use and understand social media is key.
“We know mental health is complex and there are many factors that contribute to a young person’s wellbeing, but it’s clear from the research that social media is something young people have strong opinions about and it’s something that appears to be creating more pressure day to day.
“A young person’s real-world persona and online persona are so intertwined these days so, for example, if they’re being vulnerable online or sharing something personal and not getting the reaction they were hoping for, it can be really upsetting. There’s also exposure to things like cyberbullying and this ability to draw comparisons between your own life and that of your peers, perhaps making young people feel like what they’re doing isn’t stacking up.
“We need to raise awareness about the impacts of social media overuse, and support young people to develop the skills they need to handle these new and evolving challenges,” he said.
Time online is key, argues Niall Dunne, who adds that parents often don’t show the lead.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with social media and various devices. Everything is to do with the time. That’s my experience,” Dunne told The Mayo News.
“Teenagers might go to the bedroom at 10.30pm. The parents think they are gone to bed by 11pm. All the research will tell you they’re not gone to bed until midnight. What happens is they get lazy, they get tired and they throw that stinger comment in that will really tip someone over and that’s where all the trouble will come from,” he said.
“We would always talk to parents about the ‘bad hour’ between 11pm and midnight. We’ve done research with students about parents’ usage and parents are often as bad.
“If everyone in Mayo could decide that in that one hour before everyone goes to bed that there is no more social media, you would have so much less hassle.
“If you went off your social media at 9pm, I guarantee you you would be in bed earlier than if you had it in your hands. I guarantee you that is a positive thing.”
With that in mind, we’ve started our Social Challenge in this series with the guiding rule for the participants in the week-long challenge being the phone is off from 9pm at night and not on again until 9am the next morning.

The percentage of Irish adolescents who reported having a social media profile or account.

Of those who reported to have a social media account, 96 percent reported having Snapchat, 90 percent Instagram, 54 percent Facebook, 28 percent Twitter and 4 percent had a dating app.

The percentage of adolescents who reported spending more than three hours online per day. Twenty-nine percent reported spending two to three hours per day, 25 percent one to two hours and 12 percent less than one hour.

The percentage of adolescents who have their social media profile set to private.

My World Survey 2 – The National Study of Youth Mental Health in Ireland, a survey of 19,000 second and third level Irish students conducted in 2019.


Next week
We hear the thoughts of five young people from Mayo in the pros and cons of social media plus the latest edition of our Social Challenge.