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Concerns over social media’s impacts

AS the popularity of social media grows, statistics have shown some worrying outcomes for young people and their mental health and wellbeing is an emerging public health concern.

In Australia, the rate of young females aged 14 and under hospitalised for self-harm injury more than tripled between 2008-09 and 2020-21.

This rate almost doubled in the same period for males up to the age of 14.

The Queensland Government is warning parents about the potential negative impacts of social media on children’s wellbeing.

This follows discussions by an expert group convened by Queensland’s Chief Health Officer to consider growing international concerns about the potential impact of social media on the mental wellbeing of young Queenslanders.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said that globally there is a concerning deterioration in the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

“We believe there is growing evidence that the health and wellbeing of young Queenslanders is being harmed by unrestricted access to social media, and it requires a public health response.”

Recommendations from the expert group included encouraging parents to limit access to social media for children under the age of 14, closely monitoring and supporting children as social media is introduced, and restricting time until healthy habits are established.

“There are benefits to social media including social connection for those who may be isolated – but it’s important there is a balance,” Dr Gerrard said.

“Children under 14 years may not be equipped with the emotional maturity to deal with its complexity.

“Parents of older teenagers should also remain active in understanding and guiding the amount of time their children spend on screens, including for social media activities.”

Building on the success of the Dear Mind campaign, Queensland Health will launch a new campaign next year focussing on promoting youth mental wellbeing.

This campaign follows the decision by the government to ban the use of mobile phones during school hours and its ‘Away for the Day’ campaign which promotes a healthier relationship with technology and supports schools, parents, carers, and students to use mobile phone responsibly.

Premier Steven Miles said parents, himself included, are calling for help on how to better manager their kids’ social media usage to ensure they are safe online.

“I’ve made it clear that social media companies should be held accountable for the damaging content they distribute, promote and refuse to take down,” he said.

“Now, it’s clear there is an undeniable link between social media use and mental health impacts on our young people.

“My government will be working with other states, including South Australia, to better regulate age bans and content limits on social media platforms, particularly to those under 14.”

The State Government has announced it is investing $330 million towards youth mental health and drug services – the largest in Queensland’s history.

The Federal Government’s eSafety Commissioner provides valuable resources to families, young people, educators, and health practitioners.

Queensland Health have also released a suite of new online resources to further support this cohort in keeping young Queenslanders safe. 

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Holloways Beach assault and One-man show hits the road.

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