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Comment: Don’t Underestimate The Shadowy Underbelly Of Social Media

Mental health expert Jimmy Smyth writes

WHEN it comes to the issue of talking about social media between parent and child or across the generational divide it can more often than not become an explosive topic.

For some a complete ban on social media is the answer to protecting their children from the dangers that lurk beneath the selfie-laden facade of each platform.

For others a mere stalk in the dead of night checking up on their loved one’s social media usage is the way to “keep tabs”.

And for a sensible few, integrating themselves into their young person’s social media life is a good way to engage with their children on a level that they understand and therefore enables the parent to get a better idea of the impact of the social media platform on their young person.

JimmySmyth ProfilePic

Mental health expert Jimmy Smyth

However, regardless of what your solution is to the burgeoning social media lifestyles, one thing’s for sure – there are just as many dangers, demons and things to worry about in the online world as there are are out there on our streets.

One person who speaks regularly to both adults and young people about the negative impact of social media is author, life coach and counsellor Jimmy Smyth.

With over 40 years experience working in the mental health field, Jimmy is currently one of the partners in The Health & Wellbeing Company.

Here he writes for BAM about Social Media:

By Jimmy Smyth

There is no doubt that the internet and social media have transformed lives and businesses throughout the world and many of us could not imagine life without it.

Millions of young people have taken the various platforms into their hearts, they are on it morning, noon and night having integrated it with most aspects of their everyday lives.

However, unaware to most of us there are demons dwelling in the shadows of the dark side of social media, waiting patiently for their next victim.

Never a day passes by without these demons claiming and destroying lives.

Young people are being constantly enticed and tricked into gambling, drug addiction, sexual exploitation and bullying; to mention but a few.

The thoughts of these young people are played with, moulded, poisoned and controlled until they are truly on the road of no return.

What lies in store is mental illness, a life time of debt, addiction, destroyed relationships and even loss of life.

Each year many young people in the UK and Ireland will end their social media journey by taking their own life: often having suffered for weeks, months or even years at the hands of cyber bullies.

Cyber bullies can damage your sanity and tear your world apart with threats of intimidation, exposure and blackmail.

These demons leave their victims convinced that the pain of going on is worse than the fear of the unknown and that suicide is the best option.

Day after day young people return home from school and work only to disappear behind their bedroom door to suffer more threats and abuse at the hands of cyber bullies.

The cyber bullies could be past friends or complete strangers; from countries throughout the world.

It is difficult to imagine how a young man or woman, in their bedroom, just feet away from their parents or siblings, on a social media site could be contemplating committing suicide.

It is hard to imagine that hour after hour and day after day, in their own home, how someone’s son, daughter, brother or sister is being dragged down the road of ending their own life driven by evil demons from the dark side of social media.

It’s a bleak picture, but social media is not all bad.  It has opened a platform for young people to communicate widely with the world around them and seek out friends and acquaintances of similar interests.  In some cases it has helped them to gain confidence and a voice that ordinarily they would not have had.

However, what’s important to note is that social media should not be underestimated.  And whilst parents should not be afraid of it, nor ban it from their homes, it’s essential that they consider it just as much of a threat to their young people as they would anything else.

Engage with your young people on social media, don’t stalk them or “monitor” them but have open and honest dialogue about their use of the platforms and learn which ones they use – be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Tumblr or another.

Social media, can have profound effects on a young person’s mental health and therefore must be understood.  This is a medium of communication for the modern age, it cannot be eradicated.

In today’s world young people are dealing with a profound amount of stress coming from many directions in their lives.  In order to protect them the answer is not to attempt to remove things such as social media from their lives but rather understand it’s impact and help equip them with the tools to cope with the pressures it can put upon them.

For more information about Jimmy Smyth or The Health & Wellbeing Company log onto www.thehealthandwellbeingcompany.org

To find out more about Anti-Bullying Week which runs from Nov 16-20 log on to www.endbullying.org.uk

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