Concerned about the ill-effects of prolonged exposure to the Internet, health experts called on social media platforms to install a popup display that would and warn the user if he/she has been online for too long. The companies can add the feature as part of their social responsibility to their patrons.
The call was made by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), which is made up of 6,000 British doctors, researchers and specialists. The organization is concerned about the negative effects of Internet addiction among the youth, which is now regarded as a mental health issue.
RSPH based its recommendation on the study it made together with Young Health Movement, which examined the positive and negative effects of social media on young people's mental health and wellbeing. The study found that social media has become more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.
According to the survey on 1,479 youngsters, those who spend more than two hours a day connecting on social networking sites are more likely to report poor mental health including psychological distress. Some of the respondents were concerned they were losing out on sleep, homework as well as time with friends and family.
Experts have long raised the alarm on the downside of overexposure to social media. To address the concern, RSPH recommended the introduction of a popup heavy usage warning to alert users they had been online for too long. Seven out of 10 young people surveyed supported the recommendation.
Tom Madders, RSPH director of campaigns and communications, explained the reason for their recommendation. "Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people," he said.
Social media have faced controversies before, including the posting of inappropriate photos and videos which Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the others have addressed. But for Madders, it should not stop there. "It's also important to recognize that simply 'protecting' young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution," he added.