new animation aims to give young people five evidence-based top tips to help them support their mental health when using social media.

The video was the brainchild of University of Bristol researcher Lizzy Winstone. She co-wrote the script with members of the NIHR ARC West Young People’s Advisory Group, who also provided the voiceover. Animation was provided by paupanimation.

The top tips, which came from Lizzy’s NIHR School for Public Health Research funded PhD, are:

  1. Work out privacy settings to share content with close friends and avoid being contacted by strangers
  2. Turn off the read receipt function and try not to focus on how quickly someone responds to a message or post
  3. Send messages in moderation to avoid yourself and others feeling overwhelmed. If you’re worried about how something comes across in a message, save it for a face-to-face chat
  4. Learn about algorithms. Searching for or engaging with negative content can make similar content hard to avoid in the future
  5. Follow accounts that show real life and make you feel good. Use settings to avoid seeing how many likes others are getting

Lizzy Winstone said:

“With this video, I really hope to emphasise that young people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about the time they spend online. A lot of social media use meets important social and emotional needs.

“However, some online experiences can impact negatively on young people’s mental health. These can include cyberbullying, feeling judged by others, online sexual harassment, exposure to harmful content, and feeling pressure to meet unrealistic expectations of perfection and availability. I hope this video provides some practical steps to avoid or cope with these negative experiences, allowing young people to better harness the benefits of using social media.”

Alice Matthews, the member of the Young People’s Advisory Group who provided the voiceover for the video, said:

“I really enjoyed working on this project because just about any young person should be able to relate to it. I think it was really important that young people were given a voice when making this video because adults often don’t fully understand the role social media plays in our lives. We wanted to show social media isn’t just bad like we’re often told. It can have many positive sides as long as you think about what you’re doing and I think the tips in our video show how you can keep in control and make social media work for you.”

Animator Pau Palazón Radford said:

“It has been a real pleasure to have the opportunity to make an animation like this on such an important and current topic. We should all learn from these tips as it does not only affect adolescents even though they are the most vulnerable.”

Watch the video