Perceived Challenges and Online Harms from Social Media Use on a Severity Continuum: A Qualitative Psychological Stakeholder Perspective
2. Materials and Methods
2.4. Data Analysis
3.1. Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Impacts
3.2. Theme 1: A Severity Continuum of Perceived Processes Underlying Impacts
“We do not need to view technology as something that will destroy our lives or our children’s lives because the benefits that we see are significantly greater than the potential pitfalls”(I5F, 44 years, Parent).
“I think they communicate on social media rather than ringing, texting. So the way they are communicating they are sending pictures or comments on pictures, or have threads of conversations, whether that is through Instagram or Snapchat or whatever but it is almost ‘a constant being in touch with each other’, so it is not the end of the school, ‘I will see you tomorrow’, but ‘I’ll chat with you later’”(I1F, 43 years, Teacher).
“A lot of mixed views so if you look at parental views, some are along the road ‘I wish you had not given it to them’ other parents on the road ‘actually I want my daughter to engage’”(I2F, 52 years, Teacher).
“Students have the ability to research very quickly, so obviously there is a lot of time saved. I tend to direct it, give them a sheet with links for specific things I want them to look at”(I8F, 33 years, Teacher).
“So some of the girls thrive on it and love it and that is an integral part that they really enjoy, the social side of life online, they do a lot of daily communications online and if they are happy with their friendships, are comfortable with that sort of environment then great, I guess that is what I get from my role”(I1F, 43 years, Teacher).
“..[the students] can use it wherever they are, without the parents knowing what they are doing. But when I was a kid, doing a bike ride, I had to say where I had been. So there is probably an element of creating their own space a little bit”(I8F, 33 years, Teacher).
“For introvert girls, gaming can be quite positive, the girls who are a bit autistic, we have used games like Minecraft, we have used the DS [Dual Screen] game, Brain Training, there is a place for that. But this is not like gaming with strangers or stuff like that. That has helped some girls who are introverts, because they don’t do social things, school can be very noisy for them and lonely, and it is hard for them getting the balance”(I2F, 52 years, Teacher).
3.3. Theme 2: Stakeholder Consensus on Perceptions of Challenges and Perceived Harms
“Before I used my phone way more than I do now, until it was taken away. I still do now but I now notice how much I am using it. I had not realized how much I was using it, I thought I truly need it but I do not actually need it that much, it is a bit of a hassle when people send you stuff and get more catty about it and then you get it back and you are on the same pattern again”(FG1F5).
“I literally use it excessively, like I do not go off my phone”(FG6F3).
“It is taking time from other activities that they could have been doing, the motivation for doing other things that are fun has really gone down”(I7M, 41 years, Teacher).
“Where there is something more interactive, to the field doing some research, you can see some of them, not all of them, they are just soooo bored and it is because they are not getting that instant gratification, there is nothing really dramatic happening…So they need these intense experiences. I have to be like an entertainment system, I had to change the tasks to make them work better but still their concentration is eroding”(I7M, 41 years, Teacher).
“Smartphones are a cause for distraction.. I have been looking at a lot of stuff to help them with revision, helping a lot with the studying and the best thing is ‘put your phone away, disconnect, come offline, have it timetabled in. As a parent preparing for GCSEs there was a difference with their mood, taking their gadgets away, it was still vibrating and it is the FoMO, so it does cause a lot of distraction and anxiety they have FoMO”(I4F, 49 years, Teacher).
“I find it irritating that I have to say to my son, ‘you have to put this down and do your homework’ and he says ‘I want to have a quick look at my messages’, so that is an issue and I suspect that is an issue for parents of girls as well”(I6F, 39 years, Parent).
“Some students are really lethargic at times, and I don’t know if that is linked, probably it is linked to their phones, they’re not eating or sleeping properly”(I7M, 41 years, Teacher).
“When we have meetings about achievement we ask, ‘Do you have your phone with you when you do your homework or when you go to bed?’ and a lot of the time it is because the girls are underachieving and when we ask the parents if the girls have the phone with them when they are doing homework, they have access to it and at night”(I4F, 49 years, Teacher).
“I think it is already an issue and we address it from as early as Year 7 and we had discussions...the kind of: ‘Let’s put you in that person’s position.’’ If you say something online and it is not very kind, how would you feel if that person said it to you?’ And I don’t know whether that calmed things down or not but we did have a situation, we also sent out letters to parents along those lines and explained that we had got some issues and I needed to be talking about this because there were students that were really upset about things that were happening to them”(I2F, 52 years, Teacher).
“In a chat situation, you have girls who might have sent the message but thinking that is really nasty and think ‘I am really glad that is not me’….It is bullying no matter how you look at it, so there is an emotional side to it….in fact emotions drive all of it, anger wanting to be ‘leaf of the pack’ all those sorts of things. I think it is driven by emotions, like on Facebook, people put emotional comments, statuses, and obviously as the girls get older, it can be driven by alcohol. So for example, [Years] 11,12,13 is a whole different thing going on, so then they are driven by substances as well.”(I2F, 52 years, Teacher).
“I deleted my account and I am finding it great. I am going back home and I don’t have to worry about it”(FG1F2).
“I think girls take things quite personally, so if somebody puts a picture on their wall or says something and the problem with texting is that it can be misinterpreted…there are natural problems with girls anyway, a lot of fallouts, once a girl takes a photo and puts it on Instagram, and that makes the person upset, if it’s not the flattering photo, so it’s actually like bullying, well I suppose it is a form of bullying and bullying is kind of gone outwards now, in that it is going on the internet”(I8F, 33 years, Teacher).
“It is quite explicit what they send online and once a young girl masturbated for a boy online and he asked for a video, there was a lot of awareness. It was a big thing”(I6F, 30 years, Teacher).
“Young people playing, saying obscenities, horrible things with the characters and laughing about it—I can see a bit of that bullying over in the schools”(I3M, 34 years, Teacher).
“I think anxiety, depression, eating disorders, all that is a big thing and if you look at mental health and young people through the internet, online use can contribute to that to perform in a certain way, to be clever, to be beautiful, to be sinister all that”(I7M, 41 years, Teacher).
“Phones and technology have the same kind of blocking effect to mental health like drugs and alcohol do. If someone is feeling anxious that might take some drugs or drink, whereas children might feel anxious and might want to take their phone. Obviously [the internet] is not so sinister like drugs and alcohol but it has the same kind of effect, a blocking effect.”(I9F, 29 years, Teacher).
“I think there is this flood of a stimulus…When I was home, that exposure was not there…When I was young it was like don’t walk out in the dark, but now it comes to you in your home”(I8F, 33 years, Teacher).
“We are the anxious ones, trying to protect them, give them time off it, just for their brain when they get in a difficult situation at school, that still happens. When we were younger, you went home, you may have told your mum. Then the next morning you still got a bit frosty, whereas now something happens everyone thinks it is their own business. They tell and then they fabricate and then someone from the school across the road says something else, and then from another school and no-one knows what is happening, and the young person does not have time to reflect on what is going on, it is just a constant thing”(I4F, 49 years, Teacher).
“In the meetings with girls, if the phone is there in front of them and of course they cannot leave it. They have to have it because of those strikes because they need to maintain them, so many dares, to buy likes, ‘Who likes me or my picture?’ so they are afraid to lose sight. I have had to take off phones from girls at school time to put them away because they are not allowed”(I1F, 43 years, Teacher).
“I think there is no balance, just generally. Children sleep with their phones next to them without realizing. This is one of the first things they do when they wake up so I think just in general there is a lack of balance”(I6F, 30 years, Teacher).
3.4. Theme 3: Individual Vulnerabilities Associated with Poor Mental Health
“Being online they ruminate a lot and they get quite low mood and girls tend to empathise and sympathise so I would say there are a lot of positive things but also a lot of negative feelings”(I2F, 52 years, Teacher).
“Μy big thing is the emotional side, and what it does to their body. There is anorexia, bulimia, everything how they perceive themselves and the world…These things have affected and worsened their emotional health and well-being”(I9F, Teacher).
“Actually, I think it impacts self-esteem negatively. The irony is with ‘likes’ [is that] it should boost self-esteem, but actually it has the opposite effect on it. So it brings low self-esteem. Also lots of games and apps are designed to release the endorphins. It’s like a high, so you’re potentially giving these to children, all these highs constantly, and you are matching that by continuing it. So, it is like they’re addicted to it unfortunately”(I4F, 49 years, Teacher).
“I don’t think it gives poor mental-health, I think it triggers it”(I2F, 46 years, Parent).
“Self-harm, a lot of copycat behaviour. It is a big problem changing this, or have a problem with the sexual orientation. You don’t know there is so much, just complete overload. They self-harm and this makes them feel better temporarily and then they feel guilty and then goes a consistent cycle”(I6F, 30 years, Teacher).
“The older students still having that lifestyle of playing too long and not sleeping properly and letting it affect their relationships. That is when they get in the deep because with ‘A’ levels [advanced school qualifications] that is much harder to do”(I7M, 41 years, Teacher).
3.5. Theme 4: Impacts Dependent on Context and Meaning Attached
“It might not be wrong but it comes across this way. Its all about how It’s interpreted.”(FG2F2)
“Read more of this and no more screen time and if you are still awake you can read a book- but she will always try to break the rules”(I5F, 44 years, Parent).
“Now all is so much more amplified, emotionally, particularly girls, I have seen E. cry, very emotional, very upset. I mean it is a difficult age. Anyway it’s just giving them technologies, one more thing to do with alongside with the hormones”(I1F, 42 years, Parent).
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Theme 1: A Severity Continuum of Perceived Processes Underlying Impacts|
|A host of positives overshadowed by the negatives||Learning/skills acquisition|
|Theme 2:Stakeholder consensus on perceptions of harms|
|Time displacement-related impacts|
|Peer judgement-related impacts|
|Theme 3: Vulnerabilities predispose poor mental health|
|For children with emotional difficulties or vulnerabilities|
|Theme 4: Impacts dependent on meaning attached|
|Perceptions and expectancies defining impacts|
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Throuvala, M.A.; Griffiths, M.D.; Rennoldson, M.; Kuss, D.J. Perceived Challenges and Online Harms from Social Media Use on a Severity Continuum: A Qualitative Psychological Stakeholder Perspective. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3227. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063227
Throuvala MA, Griffiths MD, Rennoldson M, Kuss DJ. Perceived Challenges and Online Harms from Social Media Use on a Severity Continuum: A Qualitative Psychological Stakeholder Perspective. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(6):3227. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063227Chicago/Turabian Style
Throuvala, Melina A., Mark D. Griffiths, Mike Rennoldson, and Daria J. Kuss. 2021. "Perceived Challenges and Online Harms from Social Media Use on a Severity Continuum: A Qualitative Psychological Stakeholder Perspective" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 6: 3227. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063227