Research by Nominet finds that one-in-seven members (14%) of Generation Z (born after 1997) say that their health has been negatively affected by social media. The research, forming part of Nominet’s Digital Futures Index, finds that social media is having a negative effect on the youngest generation, with nearly one-in-ten (8%) going as far as to say that social media has given them anxiety issues. Teachers are recognising the problem, with nearly three-quarters (72%) believing that social media etiquette and ethics should be taught in schools, yet only a minority (36%) do so.
Many young peoples’ issues from social media could be driven by a number of concerns and worries, such as a pressure to impress their friends, dishonesty and bullying. The research found several underlying issues, for example:
- 37% of Gen Z say that they feel pressure to impress friends and followers online
- Dishonesty is common, with more than a quarter (26%) admitting to lying on social media in the last six months. However, despite this, two-thirds (64%) believe that their social media profiles show the real them
- 59% of Gen Z say that that they know somebody who has been bullied online, while 20% – more than any other age group – say they’ve been a victim of bullying online
- One-in-ten members of Gen Z admit to putting something online that has upset a friend, with more (12%) admitting to being critical about somebody online that they don’t know
Perhaps as a result of these issues, some members of Gen Z are starting to turn their backs on social media. 16% say that they have left at least one social media site in the last year, while 3% say that they have left social media completely.
Given that many of Gen Z will still be at school, could the education system be doing more to help them? Teachers seem to agree, as three-quarters (75%) think that social media etiquette and safety should be taught during school. This is greater than the percentage of teachers (58%) who consider the teaching of coding or computer programming to be important. Despite this perception, in reality the opposite is true. The research finds that 36% of schools teach social media etiquette and safety, compared with 43% that teach coding.
Ultimately, despite its negative impacts, social media is still seen as an overall force for good by the majority of Gen Z (60%). Teachers too are seeing the benefits, with 75% of them saying they are confident in using ICT in the classroom to enhance the learning environment.
Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet, says: “It’s clear that there’s still work to do when it comes to protecting young people online, and ensuring the internet is a force for good. A great place to start is in our schools, where we can give the future generation the tools they need to thrive in a vibrant digital future.”
It’s clear that there’s still work to do when it comes to protecting young people online, and ensuring the internet is a force for good. – Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet
Haworth continues: “Despite its various issues, it’s encouraging to see that many young people feel that social media does also have its merits. But we can’t ignore the negative aspects that plague many of their interactions online and which in some cases even cause mental health issues. As the nation continues to innovate the way it lives and works, with digital at the heart, we need to ensure that the benefits of social media, and the wider internet, are as far reaching as possible, and that we tackle the more undesirable elements that are causing harm.”
The research forms part of Nominet’s Digital Futures Index, a project that seeks to encourage debate on what matters most, as we chart a course towards a vibrant digital future in the UK. Nominet’s position as the company behind the .UK internet infrastructure means it can offer a unique perspective on the digital progress of the UK. Nominet will work with experts from academia, business, government and education to identify the key factors that will determine the nation’s success in building a digital future. The plan is for the Digital Futures Index to be updated annually to track progress.
At the start of next year, the Vibrant Digital Future Summit will invite business leaders, tech innovators and government officials to discuss the UK’s status as a tech leader, and how we risk damaging a potentially prosperous future if we don’t act on our impending digital skills gap.