Results from a survery from Counselling Directory reveal mobile phone use can impact the mental health, sleep and self-esteem of students
As students across the country start their first week of a new term, a Counselling Directory survey, in collaboration with The Sixth Form College, Farnborough highlights the impact mobile phone use can have on the day to day life of young adults.
The survey follows an earlier collaboration with the college, in which internet addiction was explored in a film made by its students. The film and survey are part of Happiful's #ScrollControl campaign, launched to encourage mindful mobile use and to encourage much needed face to face communication.
Key survey findings
- 80% of respondents revealed they spend 9 hours or less per week on their phones.
- 54.7% said they “often” or “sometimes” spend time online when they’d rather sleep (25.1% said often; 29.6% said sometimes).
- 50.4% said they often or sometimes wish to decrease the amount of time spent online but do not succeed.
Reflecting upon the impact phones can have on young people, Counselling Directory member Lesley Inglis, who regularly works with students, said they often comment on how they can be very anxious about their mobile use and can feel overwhelmed.
"[Students] can feel overwhelmed and can live in fear of receiving a text or email that they feel they can't deal with, or conversely dread missing a communication. So the mobiles stay switched-on 24/7."
Lesley added, "I ask them to delete their social media accounts as an experiment and to leave their mobiles switched off - and preferably out of the bedroom - for the following week. I also ask them to keep a thoughts-and-feelings diary during that time.
"Initially this creates more anxiety, but by the next session they have experienced having more time to do things that are important, improved sleeping and a decrease in low mood and self-esteem."
Impact on mental health
Over 250 students responded to the survey. Around half commented that they thought their phones were a burden on their mental health - noting that they compare themselves to others on social media, and that phone create FOMO (fear of missing out) and increased levels of anxiety.
One student shared: "Frequent social media use is extremely damaging. Due to the internet, I’ve got very little of a social life and low self esteem. It’s even got to the point where I no longer turn notifications off on my phone apps, I can’t help but frequently check them out of habit. I wish less of the world was focused on the internet. Even my entire school system is online which gives me an excuse to be on my phone."
Some students pointed out the dangers and accessibility of online materials, "It’s so easy to find incredibly graphic and disturbing content relating to mental health on social networking. It really isn’t dealt with enough by companies and it can really badly affect your mindset and how you feel within yourself.
"It’s also very easy to get in with the wrong crowd, for example, there are so many pro anorexia group chats where girls my age (16) and younger encourage themselves and others not to eat or they bully each other via appearances and weight. I think it’s quite difficult to rise above stuff like that and remind yourself it’s not the answer."
However, the survey didn't paint an altogether negative picture, with other students sharing that their phone is beneficial to their mental health. Some stated that social media was a distraction for them and enjoy how they can reach the support of their friends so easily online.
One student noted "Just because I'm tired and unhappy it doesn't mean my phone is the cause. If anything my schoolwork is the cause of my poor mental health. My phone provides an escape and comfort and allows me to follow my interests for free."
This survey was conducted as part of Happiful and Counselling Directory’s #ScrollControl campaign launched on 31 August. While highlighting the positive impact and opportunities phones and apps can bring, the campaign seeks to prompt people to consider how they use their phones and if they need or want to make a change and find ways to claim back control.
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