Influences of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health in Ghana


Term Paper, 2019
16 Pages

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SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCES ON ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH IN GHANA AUTHOR: GILBERT ARHINFUL AIDOODEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCEUNIVERSITY OF GHANA, LEGON

INTRODUCTION

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Meaning and Stages of Adolescent
An Overview of Adolescent Mental Health
The Concept of Social Media
Opportunities and Risks Associated with Social Media Use
Opportunities or Benefits of Social Media Use
Risks Associated with Social Media Use
Social Media and Adolescent Mental Health
2.6 Theoretical Framework

PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
Introduction
Trends of Social Media Use in Ghana
Common Activities by Adolescents on Social Media
Impacts of Social Media on Adolescent Users in Ghana
Influences of Social Media on Mental Health of Adolescent Users in Ghana
Implications of the Findings on Policy Decisions and Regulation of Social Media in Ghana

SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Summary of Findings
Conclusions
Recommendations

REFERENCES

INTRODUCTION

Social media has become a common avenue for social networking - creating, sharing and exchanging information - in a virtual public, which allows people to create and consume their own information on any e-medium that sanctions social interfacing. It includes, online platforms such as social networking (Facebook), internet fora (e-Healthforum.com), blogs and microblogs (Twitter), photo or video sharing media (YouTube, Instagram), crowdsourcing (Wikipedia) and virtual games (Weinstein, 2018; Berryman et al., 2017; O’keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). These media present both opportunities and challenges to users. The use of social media by especially adolescents may enhance communication and socialization, learning opportunities, and access to important health information. But it may also promote dissemination of inaccurate and misleading information that may result in unwarranted adolescent psychosocial behaviours such as sexting, cyberbullying, anxiety, social isolation and suicide (Ibid). Several research findings have confirmed the influences of social media usage on adolescent’s mental health in the extant literature. Common amongst these research findings is expression of concerns about how social media affects psychosocial and emotional traits of adolescents. The commonly found psychosocial problems include, anxiety relating to FoMO (fear of missing out), depression, and loneliness. However, social media influences have not always been negative (see Berryman et al., 2017; Swist et al., 2015; Stricklad, 2014).

However, in Ghana, information about social media influences on adolescent users’ behaviour is dearth. Again, any empirical assessment of social media influences on adolescent mental health is largely lacking. Furthermore, there is limited or no policy or legal framework regarding access and use of social media platforms in Ghana. More so, most of the few empirical studies on social media usage in Ghana have focused on access, purpose, benefits and risks and impacts on academic performance of tertiary, secondary and basic school students (Markwei & Appiah, 2016; Owusu-Acheaw & Larson, 2015; Mingle & Adams, 2015). It is against this backdrop that the current study comes to examine the actual influences of social media on adolescent mental health and overall policy implications in Ghana.

The researcher intends to achieve the following objectives at the end of the study:

1. Examine the trend in social media use in Ghana
2. Examine the main impacts of social media use on adolescents in Ghana
3. Examine major influences of social media use on mental health of adolescents in Ghana

The study will contribute immensely to existing knowledge on social media use among Ghanaian youth. The results may also inform national policy on effective and responsible use of social media in order to mitigate associated risks of social media use on Ghanaian adolescents.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The study is largely qualitative and employs the desk research method i.e. sourcing for largely secondary data such as newspapers, books, journal articles, etc. - both electronic and published - from archives, libraries, online or the internet sources of media houses, CSOs, Government Agencies, etc. The text data sourced are content analysed under well-organized themes derived from the research objectives.

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Meaning and Stages of Adolescent

The word adolescence is derived from a Latin word ‘adolescere’ – literally ‘to grow up’ or ‘to grow into maturity’. Generally, the term adolescent connotes a period that succeeds childhood and precedes early adulthood in human growth. It is a process of growing into adulthood. As a transition period, adolescent spans from childhood to maturity, and biologically extends from ages 10 to 19 (see WHO, 2017; Jones et al., 1998; Mgboro, 2004). At adolescent stage, the individual begins to experience physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral changes. Some of the major characteristics of individuals at adolescent stage include, experiencing rapid changes in attitudes, interests and behaviour, noticeable increase in body size, height and weight, developing differing opinions on certain issues, showing much disagreements with parents and high emotional feelings (Ibid).

Three stages of adolescent are identified - early, middle and late. Each stage comes with specific character traits, though not exclusive. At the early adolescent stage, the individual tries to establish self-independence from parents, shows intense conformity to peers and expresses pressing needs for being accepted. The middle adolescent stage begins when the individual begins to develop new reasoning skills and expanded intellectual capacity. They often express self-directed concerns towards the opposite sexed peers, develops increased psychological independence from parents and begin to show psychological preparedness towards adulthood roles and start planning vocational goals. The late stage marks the final preparations for adult roles, attempts to crystalize their vocational goals and establish sense of personal identity, needs for peer approval diminishes and are largely independent psychosomatically from parents. Here, the shift to adulthood is nearly complete and their developmental demands extend into young adulthood (WHO, 2017; Nordgyist, 2017). Here, adolescents usually show rebellious, antisocial attitudes. Their views often conflict with their parents. They experience identity conflict due to the changing roles and show much desires for more explorations or curiosity to discover their own identities (Harighurst, 1998).

An Overview of Adolescent Mental Health

The concept, mental health, may refer to one’s ability to enjoy life, to attain balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Mental Health (1950; in Bertolote, 2018: 114) defines mental health as “a condition, subject to fluctuations due to biological and social factors, which enables the individual to achieve a satisfactory synthesis of his own potentially conflicting, instinctive drives; to form and maintain harmonious relationships with others; and to participate in constructive changes in his social and physical environment”. Generally, mental health refers to the cognitive, behavioural and emotional wellbeing and borders on how one thinks, feels and behaves, and is sometimes used to indicate absence of mental disorder (Nordgyist, 2017). The common mental health conditions include, anxiety, mood or affective and schizophrenia disorders. Anxiety disorders include: panic disorder and all type of phobias. Examples of mood or affective disorders are, major depression, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorders and seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression triggered by a lack of day light and often experienced in countries far from the equator during late autumn, winter and early spring. Schizophrenia disorder is a highly complex mental condition and often affect people between the ages 15 and 25. Victims experience fragmented thoughts and find it difficult to process information (Nordgyist, 2017).

According to the WHO (2017), while most adolescents have good mental health, multiple physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse or violence may cause mental health conditions or vulnerabilities. Further, it identified multiple factors that affect adolescent mental health. These include, desire for greater autonomy, pressure to conform to peers, exploration of sexual identity, quality of home lives and relationships with peers, increased access to technology (social media), violence and harsh parenting or bullying, socio-economic problems (Brookman, 2017; Bartolote, 2018). Available evidence in the literature shows that, globally, between 10 and 20% adolescents are estimated to experience mental health conditions yet remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. Every 1 out of 6 people aged 10 - 19 (adolescents) years suffers from a mental health condition. Again, 16% of injuries, and disease among adolescents globally are caused by mental health conditions. Common mental health conditions in adolescents include, emotional disorders, depression, anxiety, excessive irritability, frustration or anger. Most of these conditions begin at age 14. Depression is found as the leading mental health condition globally which cause disability among adolescents, followed by suicide as the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 15 - 19 years old (WHO, 2017; Bertolote, 2017; Brookman, 2017).

Signs of mental health conditions among adolescents include, excessive use of drugs, withdrawal from people or activities normally enjoyed, sleeping or eating too much or little, low energy, displaying unexpected emotions, confusion, inability to complete daily standard tasks such as cooking, getting to school or work, and delusion among others (see Nordgyist, 2017; WHO, 2017). These conditions are often overlooked due to several reasons, which include, among other things, lack of knowledge or awareness about mental health among health workers and parents, stigmatization which prevents people from seeking help. Withdrawal or avoidance of family, peers or community may worsen isolation, loneliness and depression, consequently risking suicide among adolescents. Over 62 000 adolescents died of suicide in 2016 globally (WTO, 2017). The digital or social media platforms is seen as one of the leading risk factors of suicide among adolescents world over. It must be noted that failure to address adolescent mental health conditions extends to adulthood, impairs both physical and mental health and limit life opportunities in adulthood. Thus, mental health promotion and prevention remain core remedies for adolescents to overcome mental health conditions and to enable them thrive in life (WTO, 2017).

The Concept of Social Media

Kaplan and Harenlein (2010) define social media as “a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideology and technological foundation of Web 2.0 and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content (cited in Kolan & Dzandza, 2015: 5). It is the cybernetic and simulated relations among peoples, organizations and companies. It involves the creation and exchange of information through text, images, videos and other symbols. It also involves interactions among people in which they create and share information and ideas in a virtual community. They include, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Instagram and Whatsapp (Asare-Donkoh, 2018; Swist, Collin & McCormack, 2015).

The idea of social media began in the 1990s (Kolan & Dzandza, 2018). The first social media network, ‘SixDegrees’ was introduced in 1997, which allowed people to upload a profile and make friends. Between 1997-2001, several community tools such as Asian Avenue, Black Planet and MiGente, began supporting various combination of profile and publicly articulated friends. There has since been rapturous improvement and currently there are numerous social media or networking sites world over developed for locale use, specific purposes or international use (Boyed et al., 2007; in Kolan & Dzandza, 2018: 5).

Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) have classified social media into the following 6 categories: collaborative projective (e.g. Wikipedia), Blogs and Micro-Blogs (e.g. Twitter), Content Communities (e.g. YouTube), Social Networking Sites (e.g. Facebook), Virtual Game World (e.g. World of War Craft), and Virtual Second World (e.g. Second Life) (see Kolan & Dzandza, 2015; Swist, Collin & McCormack, 2015).

These media platforms come with both opportunities and risks. For example, it may help adolescents to enhance their relationships, improve learning opportunities, offer personalized course materials and improve access to health information among others. But it may also promote identity theft, online sexual abuse or harassment, sexting, cyberbullying, depression and privacy concerns (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011; Swist, Collin & McCormack, 2015).

Opportunities and Risks Associated with Social Media Use

This section examines both the positive and negative impacts of social media on adolescent users. Several studies have revealed both negative and positive impacts of social media usage. The benefits include improving health delivery, education and policy, improving liberal education and learning opportunities as well as enhancing adolescents’ ability to socialize and reach out to distant classmates, family members and friends. But social media use can also result in privacy invasion, online harassment and anxiety, among others (Barry et al., 2017; Berryman, Fergusin & Negy, 2017; Weinsten, 2018).

Opportunities or Benefits of Social Media Use

One major advantage of social media to adolescents is communication and information sharing among peers, family members and friends. Many adolescents across the globe use internet, cell phones and video games to gather information and communicate with each other. The ability to interact with others is a unique feature of social media which provides powerful avenues for adolescents to create and explore their social environments (Caroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011). Social media offer adolescents ways to experience connectedness and opportunities to learn from their peers from different cultural backgrounds and nationalities among others. Also, it provides adolescents the supportive environment to explore romantic and platonic relationships. Through the opportunity social media provides for teens to share and discuss their taste in music, knowledge of movies and video games among others which helps them to build healthy relationships with others (Weinstein, 2018; Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2011). Moreover, it enables adolescents find health and other supports online that may traditionally be lacking - especially among teens socially marginalized such as trans-genders, lesbians, etc. and those living with disabilities who feel physically unattractive and socially reticent as well as suffering from diseases they are not likely to open up on such as HIV/AIDs, mental health conditions (see Nielson, 2009; Lenhardt, 2010). More so, social media provides new leisure, play and recreation spaces for adolescents. The online videos and games especially, provide enormous opportunities for learning, creativity, identity formation, socialization, relaxation and stress relief (Strickland, 2014). Last but not least, social media creates avenue for adolescents to actively engage in civic and political education. The social networking sites use by adolescents open up diverse opportunities for participation, self-expression and creativity to address social and political issues (Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2011). Finally, social media platforms may help promote proactive approaches to issues of risk and safety that can empower adolescents to develop resilience and actions that support their wellbeing. Further, it also support family and intergenerational relationships that utilize different forms of expertise - including, knowledge and skills of both younger and older generations - to promote safety, wellbeing and resilience (Strickland, 2014).

Risks Associated with Social Media Use

Apart from the benefits discussed afore, there are also negative or risks associated with social media usage especially among adolescents. First, excessive use of social media by adolescents may result in less time for face-to-face social interaction and physical activity. Many express concerns about higher addiction rate to social media adolescents. Though they benefit from improved reading skills, it also affect their spelling, time spent on completing assignments, etc. and consequently result in poor academic performance (Mingle & Adams, 2015). Again, poor integration of social media in formal and informal learning networks can reinforce social exclusion (Strickland, 2014). Furthermore, while many young people take advantage of social media platforms to actively participate in civic and political engagements, many young people risk been radicalized into potentially extremist messages, which among other complex factors, may lead to potentially harmful practices among adolescents (Strickland, 2014). Moreover, social media expose adolescents to such unruly behaviours as sexting, online sexual solicitation and predation as well as cyberbullying. Sexting is a form of texting where individuals send or receive sexually suggestive nude or semi-nude images or messages. Research shows that about 20% teens in US have reported posting nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves before (Strickland, 2014). Again, unwanted online sexual solicitation, harassment and predation are another major risks adolescents face on social networking sites (Ybarra, 2007; Strickland, 2014: 3). Sexual predation occurs when an adult makes contact with a minor with intent of engaging in sexual activities. Online harassment and sexual solicitation often occurs between peers online (Ibid; Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2014). Finally, adolescents’ use of social media also presents several privacy and security concerns. Many are also exposed to problematic and illegal content and privacy violations (Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2014). However, Berkman (2010) argues that risks adolescents face online are similar to those offline. Again, he observes that, the risk profile for the use of the various social media platforms depends on the type of risk, choice of media and the psychological make-up of the adolescent using a particular social media. Further, he asserts that adolescents most at risk often risk engaging in risky behaviour offline and also have difficulties in other aspects of their lives (cited in Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2014).

Social Media and Adolescent Mental Health

This section will focus on examining the relationship between social media and adolescent users’ mental wellbeing. Social media use by adolescent may affect their physical and mental wellbeing. Research on the relationship between mental health and social media use has not been conclusive. While some studies findings indicate a negative relationships (Barry et al., 2017; Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2011), others show a positive relationship (Berryman, Ferguson and Negy, 2017). Yet another group of studies indicate both positive and negative connections (Weinstein, 2018; Taylorab, 2014). There is another set of researches that find no clear connection between social media use and mental health (Strickland, 2014).

The usual assumption was that, there is a connection between increased social media use and deteriorated mental health. Studies conducted by Barry et al (2017) and Carrol and Kirkpatrick (2011) confirm this assertion. According to a study conducted by Barry et al. (2017), social media use by adolescents and young adults affects negatively, their mental health. They found that excessive use of social media promotes inattentiveness in class, hyperactivity or impulsivity, anxiety, depression. FoMO (i.e. fear of missing out) and loneliness. On their part, Carrol and Kirkpatrick’s (2011) survey showed that impact of social media on adolescent mental health is largely negative. Their findings revealed that: 1). Peer rejection and lack of close friends usually caused depression and negative self-view. 2). Heaviest social media user adolescents are less content and more likely to get into several troubles, are often sad or unhappy and bored. 3). Further, they noted that 21% of adolescent social media users in the US risk depression. 4). Girls (68%) usually have negative experiences on social networking, including online sexual solicitation, predation and harassment. 5). Specifically, Facebook may incite fights especially with the creation of burn pages for taunting or teasing others. 6). Cyberbullying - they argue that social media may result in emotional distress from receiving threatening, harassing and humiliating communication or messages from another peers. They found that 23% of California teens are reported to have been threatened by a peers, which usually result in higher levels of depression among teens.

Berryman, Ferguson and Negy’s (2017) correlational study of social media use and young adults’ mental health with a sample of 467 using such indicators as general mental health symptoms, suicidal ideation, loneliness, social anxiety and decreased empathy. The results showed that social media use had no impact on young adults mental health functioning. However, they found that vague booking may cause suicidal ideation and concluded that apart from vague booking, concerns about social media on mental health conditions are misplaced.

As indicated afore, those who think social media has both positive and negative impacts argue that there is no straight jacket either/ or outcome on social media and adolescent or young adults use of social media sites. They believe that there are both opportunities and risks with social media use. For example, Weinstein (2018) examine the relationship between social media use and impact on teens’ mental health from the perspectives of both teens and adults or parents. He conducted both a survey, exploratory study and in-depth interviews to help ascertain the situation. The survey (sample size of 568) results showed positive impact of social media use on US teens. The exploratory results showed both positive and negative impacts. And the in-depth interviews (sample of 26 adults) also showed both positive and negative impacts. For instance, he noted from the interview that, social media use have affective impact which can be organized on 4 main dimensions: 1) relational interactions ensured both closeness and disconnection, 2) self-expression promoted both affirmations and concerns about other’s judgments, 3) interest-driven exploration confers both inspirations and distress, and 4) browsing leads to entertainment and boredom as well as admiration and envy. He thus concluded that, teens’ social media use and mental health cannot be confined to any either or framework since it comes with both positive and negative influences on teens.

On his part, Taylorab (2014) examined the effects of online technologies on adolescent mental health. He found that such adventure of adolescents on social media comes with both benefits and risks. Among the benefits are: increased self-esteem, perceived social identity experimentation, and increased opportunity for self-disclosure. However, he also noted that increased use may expose adolescents to harm, social isolation, depression and cyberbullying, he however, found no causal relationship between social media and mental health of adolescent users. In the same vein, Strickland (2014) also found no clear connection whatsoever, between social media use and mental health of young adults.

However, it must be noted that, in Ghana, there is no information about any work on social media use and mental health in general and adolescent mental health in particular. What actually exist are those on access, trends, and impacts on education or academic performance of tertiary, secondary and basic school students as well as performance of young professionals (see Mingle & Adams, 2014; Kolan & Dzandza, 2018; Ocansey, Amatepe & Oduro, 2016; Mahama, 2015; Asare-Donkoh, 2018; Talaue et al., 2018; Sey, 2011). All the relevant systematic empirical studies conducted on social media use and impact on mental health of adults, young adults, teens and children are done mostly the advance world, especially the US. Thus, there is the need to assess the situation in the Ghanaian context. The aim is to help come up with policy and regulatory frameworks that may help maximize benefits and minimize risks associated with adolescents and youths use of social media.

2.6 Theoretical Framework

This section addresses the theoretical framework underpinning the current study. Theories are sets of assumptions or statements or hypotheses that provide explanations for real-world experiences, events or phenomena (Asare, 2011: 37). The current study adopts the theory of Displaced Behaviour to explain how social media use influence mental health of adolescents.

The theory of Displaced Behaviour (DB) postulates that sedentary behaviour, such as those promoted by social media, displace physical activities and may affect the mental wellbeing of such individuals who are addicted to social media. Sedentary behaviour include activities that involve sitting or lying down and are characterized by low Metabolic Equivalent Total (MET) energy expenditure. These activities are performed at or slightly above resting metabolic rate (1-1.5 METs) and may include activities such as watching TV, computer use, playing video games, watching movies and passive recreation (see Strickland, 2014). It has been observed has social media further encourage these sort of sedentary behaviours.

The assumptions of the DB theory are that: People who spend more time in sedentary behaviour (on social media) have less time to be protective against mental disorders. Again, not social media use per se that has deleterious effects on mental health, but rather the absence of other (physical) activities. As several empirical evidences suggest, sedentary behaviour usually displace physical activities and exercise and the benefits they come with. For example, physical activity reduce depression in patients (Strickland, 2014). But lack of it is associated with both lifetime and depressive disorders as well as anxiety disorders (see Strine et al., 2008; cited in Strickland, 2014: 16). Exercise may reduce such somatic depressive symptoms as disturbed sleep, general fatigue, diminished appetite, etc. Also, face-to-face social interactions reduces risks of developing mental health conditions (see Ransford, 1982; in Strickland, 2014: 16).

Proponents of this theory (DB) argue that, social media use could displace face-to-face interactions and the associated benefits. They point to a connection between social media use and increasing risks of depression and other mental health conditions. They assert that the more frequently adolescents use social media, the more they are removed from social interactions and other physical activities, and consequently, the higher the risk of depression and other mental health conditions. More so, prolonged use of social media does not only remove users from social interactions, but more importantly, it also results in breakdown of social support or community networks and may lead to increased risk of mental ill-health (see Strickland, 2014; WHO, 2017; Nordgyist, 2017; Brookman, 2017; Bartolote, 2018).

PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS

Introduction

This chapter presents the major findings of the study. It also discusses the major issues that emerged from the study. The analysis was classified into three main themes (with a number of sub-themes) derived from the research objectives. Also, where necessary, excerpts are cited to buttress key points raised.

Trends of Social Media Use in Ghana

Social media has become a common communication tool for the youth world over. Globally, there are 3.196 billion social media users (Asare-Donkoh, 2018). In the USA, according to the Pew Internet Project 2014 report, about 89% of regular internet users who are between the ages 18 - 28 use social media (Tuurosong & Faisal, 2014). In Ghana, due to the increase in mobile devices with internet connections, the number of social media users has also increased. Mobile subscription data from the Telcos in Ghana (MTN, Vodafone, AirtelTigo and GLO) show that as of September 2017, about 22 865 821 Ghanaians own mobile phones, with approximately 80% penetration rate (NCA, 2018; cited in Asare-Donkoh, 2018: 2). The annual report by the e-commerce company, Jumia, in 2018 indicates that Ghana is one of Africa’s largest mobile market with about 35.57 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 119%. The report further states that, there are 10.11 million active internet users in Ghana, representing 35% of the total population (Asare-Donkoh, 2018: 2). Moreover, 5.6 million of the active internet users have one or another active social media account (Ibid).

The common devices used are mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. A significant number of Ghanaians have account on one or a combination of the following social media sites, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, Messenger, Viber, Tango, and Skype. The available evidence shows that Facebook and WhatsApp are the most frequently used social media platforms in Ghana, followed by Twitter, Skype and YouTube (see Tuurosong & Faisal, 2014; Asare-Donkoh, 2018). The Internet World Statistics indicates that as of year ending 2014, about 1 630 420 (6.6%) of the total Ghanaian population are active Facebook users (Ibid).

A study by Tuurosong and Faisal (2014) showed that majority of social media users are young adults (aged 18-29) in the various universities. However, evidence found in the extant literature shows that social media use is also prevalent among Ghanaian adolescents. A study of social media use among 300 adolescent respondents aged (15 - 17), all of them said have active social media accounts in more than one networking sites (see Asare-Donkoh, 2018: 11). Again, the majority said they used social media more than once daily, and about half of them also said they used social media at least once daily (Ibid). Moreover, about 98% of adolescent social media users in Ghana aged (15-19) have Facebook accounts and use it frequently daily. More so, approximately 85.2% of the 470 adolescent respondents in a survey conducted in Ghana by Ocansey, Amatepe and Oduro (2016) said they spent much of their out-of-school period on social media. On the average, it was found that over 9 hours are spent by especially urban dwelling adolescents on social media every day (Ibid).

Common Activities by Adolescents on Social Media

It was found that, adolescents in Ghana usually use social media to chatt with friends and relations. Just about a fifth of users, according to Asare-Donkoh (2018), use it for academic purposes. Amongst those who use social media for academic purposes, it was found that they either use it to search for information for their class exercises or homework, discuss topics and assignments with group members or classmates. Furthermore, other common uses of social media among adolescents in Ghana include, socialization, sharing, downloading or listening or watching movies or videos, music, opera, modelling and pornography. Most of them, as the available evidence suggests, use social media when bored or didn’t feel like engaging in any academic activity or talking to anyone (Ibid; Tulaue et al., 2018).

Impacts of Social Media on Adolescent Users in Ghana

Regarding the impacts of social media on adolescent users in Ghana, it was found that it both positively and negatively impacts on them (see Ocansey, Amatepe & Oduro, 2016; Mahama, 2015; Asare-Donkoh, 2018; Tuurosong & Faisal, 2014). This confirms results of other research conducted elsewhere as found in the literature (see Strickland, 2014; Weinstein, 2018). The remainder of this section outline some of the major positive and negative impacts of social media use on adolescent users in Ghana.

To begin with, social media has become an alternative instructional tool for many teachers in some Ghanaian basic, secondary and tertiary schools to help enhance students learning opportunities and more importantly, their language skills. It also helps fill the gaps with regards to limited or a lack of access to library facilities especially in rural communities. Adolescents use social media to search or share relevant academic information on class subjects and assignments. This enables students to easily get access to essential learning materials. This goes a long way to enhance their academic performance and education (Asare-Donkoh, 2018). Further, it helps adolescent to get access to important health information on major health conditions where information on the traditional health domain is difficult. There are several health issues such as HIV, sexuality and mental problems which most adolescent are not readily willing to share information on with either peers, parents or doctors. However, if they are able feel comfortable discussing or sharing information on ‘hard-to-talk-about’ health conditions with experts on social media platforms (Kolan & Dzandza, 2018). This will go a long way to improve their physical, physiological and psychosocial wellbeing. Furthermore, social media allow many adolescents to participate in civic and political engagements. Through Facebook life, etc. adolescent are able to learn especially from media houses with ease, discussions on major civic and political matters such as patriotism, sanitation issues, elections, voter registration, voting and promotion as well as protection of human rights. The NCCE can also use some these platforms to educate adolescent users on several issues such as social, educational, and health needs. Moreover, they are able to get updates on both local and international news on multifaceted issues such as politics, health, education, social and economic easily (Mahama, 2015; Asare-Donkoh, 2018). More so, it also allows many adolescents to socialize with their peers both within and proximity and out-of-touch people to help them share and learn about their different experiences. This will improve social lives and sociability of many adolescents in Ghana. Finally, they may also use it to re-connect with families, friends and classmates whenever there is the need to do so (Asare-Donkoh, 2018; Mahama, 2015; Ocansy, Amatepe & Oduro, 2016).

The many benefits notwithstanding, social media use by adolescent comes with several challenges and risks which may affect the moral, emotional, social, mental and financial state among others of adolescent users in Ghana. The results showed that, social media use mostly distract users attention in classroom, this may contribute towards a rather poor academic performance. Similarly, many adolescent users use these sites to engage in examination malpractices during WAEC BECE or WASSCE examination periods. Secondly, the excessive use of social media results in reduced physical contacts with peers, friends and participation in communal activities. It thus, affect their moral, civic, and social standing. It also results in unhealthy social relations. The unlimited and unregulated access to social media sites and all information may expose them to damaging contents. For example, it was found that a significant number of Ghanaian adolescent social media users have been sharing nude pictures of themselves online which sometimes land them in the hands of sexual predators and scammers. Again, many share and receive pornographic pictures and videos that may have damaging moral and sexual implications for their future. Some even engage in fraud (sakawa) via the social media sites. Relatedly, concerns about safety and privacy and abuse of social media due to the unregulated access to information was found. This carry the potential of causing self-havocs such as depression, anxiety and suicide (see Asare-Donkoh, 2018; Ocansey, Amatepe & Oduro, 2016).

Influences of Social Media on Mental Health of Adolescent Users in Ghana

The relationship between increased use of social media and adverse impact on mental health is widely acknowledged. Available evidence show that, unfortunately, adolescents are mostly at higher risk of developing mental health conditions. Even though presently in is unclear the exact relationship between social media use and mental health of adolescents in Ghana. Some of the major findings of the current study point to few ways by which social media affect the mental wellbeing of adolescent users in Ghana. The researcher found that excessive use of social media - adolescent spending averagely 9 non-stop hours on social media causes addiction. Thus, most of them do not spend enough time to rest nor sleep. This results in tiredness, anti-social lifestyles and lack of empathy for others. Again, the study revealed that many boys and girls aged 10 - 19 usually run into trouble online. Some of them either mistakenly or naively send their nude pictures or videos to peers or adults who begin to either harass them sexually, humiliate them or blackmail them for money. Many of these adolescents who find themselves in this situation mostly go through stress, fear, anxiety, depression and some even attempt or actually commit suicide. These findings largely confirm the assumptions of the Displaced Behaviour Theory adopted by this study (see Strickland, 2014). It also confirms findings of some studies conducted elsewhere (see for example Barry et al., 2017; Berryman, Ferguson & Negy, 2017; Weinstein, 2018; Swist, Collin & McCormack, 2015; Carrol & Kirkpatrick, 2011; Bertolote, 2018).

Implications of the Findings on Policy Decisions and Regulation of Social Media in Ghana

The findings drum home some policy, regulatory and legal implications of social media use in Ghana. Policy, regulatory and legal framework for social media access and use especially by the adolescent is lacking in Ghana. The ICT Accelerated Development Policy of 2003 calls for deregulation and restructuring of social media use in Ghana (Sey, 2011). Thus, there is imminent need for well-thought out policy and regulatory frameworks to guide the use of social media among the adolescent in Ghana. This will help minimize risks and maximize benefits associated with social media use in the country (Amponsah & Blavani, 2017). Secondary, the National Media Commission (NMC) and the National Communication Authority as well as the Ministry of Education must enact cyber protection legal regulations to reduce the harmful effects of social media use on the adolescent population in Ghana (Tuurosong & Faisal, 2014; Asare-Donkoh, 2018). Parents, teachers and school authorities must also monitor people under their care’s extent of use, type of information accessed and shared on social media so as to ensure responsible use of social networking platforms by adolescents. More so, there is the need to foster digital age literacies among children and young people in Ghana. This should span the media, internet and social media emotional literacies that consider not only safe use of social media, but also the moral and ethical repercussions of their everyday practices. Finally, peer and intergenerational capacities and support (both online and offline) should be promoted so as to foster skills, promote shared values and understanding and maximize opportunities for the children, adolescent and youth in Ghana’s wellbeing.

SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Summary of Findings

The main aim of the study was to examine the influences of social media use on adolescents’ mental health in Ghana. Thus, the main focus of the analysis includes, trends of social media use, benefits and risks associated with use of social media and the major influences it has on mental health of adolescent users in Ghana. The study found that significant number of adolescents use social media. They mostly use Facebook and WhatsApp usually on their phones. Also, social media comes with several advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages include, access to learning, health and socialization facilities. But they also risk being addicted to social media, exposed to damaging contents, etc. however, even though there are some enumerated influences of social media on mental health of adolescent users in Ghana, the exact relationship between them is not clearly shown.

Conclusions

In conclusion, just as in elsewhere, adolescents in the current digital generation cannot be stopped from using social media and virtual games in Ghana. The unlimited access to such facilities though largely beneficial, when not properly checked may have a lot of negative consequences on the mental, physical, social and academic wellbeing of the many adolescent users. This calls for urgent multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder discussions to find the best way of ensuring responsible use of social media in Ghana.

Recommendations

Based on the major findings, the researcher recommendations suggests the following for consideration.

1. A further and robust research on imperatives and affordances of social media platforms, alongside the complex circumstances of children, adolescent and young people is vital to inform ongoing informal and formal policy, service and practical innovations.
2. Strategies to promote positive impacts of social media on wellbeing of adolescents and supporting strategies to promote the digital capacity and resilience of individuals and communities should be developed by industry players and all the major stakeholders.
3. There should be education about the responsible use of social media by both adolescent and their parents, guidance and teachers as key to averting potential dangers.
4. There is also the need for a multi-sectoral policy interventions to healp maximize benefits and opportunities and minimize risks and challenges associated with social media use.

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Details

Title
Influences of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health in Ghana
College
University of Ghana, Legon
Author
Year
2019
Pages
16
Catalog Number
V504904
Language
English
Tags
influences, social, media, adolescent, mental, health, ghana
Quote paper
Gilbert Arhinful Aidoo (Author), 2019, Influences of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health in Ghana, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/504904

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