Mental health is a topic never far from the minds of girls as young as 11-15 years old in the United States, according to a recent study by Common Sense Media, an online parental guidance platform.
In real life, nearly seven in ten girls reported having had exposure to helpful mental health content and information in real life each month. But on the flip side, just under half (45 percent) said they heard or saw harmful content about suicide or self harm while just under four in ten (38 percent) said the same of harmful content on eating disorders.
Social media, in many ways an extension of daily life, appears to have the same contradiction. As Statista’s Anna Fleck shows in the following chart, girls aged 11-15 years old face a high risk of exposure to harmful content on social media in the United States, including on the topics of suicide, self-harm and eating disorders.
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The report found that girls report that exposure to both topics is prevalent across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and even messaging apps, with more than one in three girls reporting that they “hear or see things about suicide or self-harm that is upsetting to [them]” at least monthly on all platforms, with 15 percent of girls who use TikTok and Instagram saying they come across this type of content on the platforms on a daily basis.
The figures are even higher for those with depressive symptoms.
Some 75 percent of the girls who reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms who use Instagram said they come across harmful suicide-related content on the platform at least once a month. This is nearly three times the likelihood of the girls without depressive symptoms who come across the content at the same frequency (26 percent). According to the report, a similar pattern emerges for TikTok users (69 percent of girls with moderate to severe depressive symptoms see the harmful content versus 27 percent of girls without depressive symptoms) as well as for the other platforms.
However, social media is also a key resource for finding helpful information and content on mental health, whether that’s from established organizations and authorities or from those who have personal experience of mental illness. Here, we can see that the majority of girls on each of these platforms say that they come across helpful resources on social media each month. Girls with moderate or severe depressive symptoms who use social media were also more likely to see such helpful mental health content or resources at least monthly on these platforms TikTok (78 percent), Instagram (80 percent), YouTube (74 percent), and Snapchat (73 percent).
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