Social media influencers wield significant power, shaping opinions, particularly among young people. However, their impact on youth mental health is concerning. Most recently, the controversial actions and statements of Andrew Tate and his rise to fame, has made him a polarising figure, amassing a significant following of mostly young males. Educators and families have raised urgent concerns about the damaging nature of Tate’s content, worried that his messages may radicalise students and create a generation of young men with regressive and harmful beliefs.
In today's digital world, anyone can be an influencer, exerting influence through their audience relationship. Comparisons to idealised lives on social media can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, while exposure to inappropriate content and distorted body image perceptions exacerbate the issue. The fast-paced environment inundates young people with information, making them susceptible to certain beliefs and evoke strong emotions. Attention has become a valued commodity, therefore influencers design content to captivate their audiences.
Filtered portrayals of perfect lives create unrealistic expectations often resulting in dissatisfaction. Comparisons with peers intensify insecurities and anxiety. Social media algorithms may also expose a young person to inappropriate content, fostering negative and divisive narratives which can then lead to cyberbullying and online harassment, further harming their wellbeing.
It is therefore crucial for parents and caregivers to guide a young person’s social media use, encourage open communication, and educate them about the realities of social media. Be curious to comprehend why they might be drawn to radical influencers, like Andrew Tate, and actively seek understanding as part of the solution. Through modelling kindness, respect and positive values, you can help tackle the sway of such influencers, countering unhealthy masculinity and mitigating potential harm. While not all influencers have a negative impact, it is important to ensure there is a balanced approach between online and offline activities. Emphasise the importance of critical thinking, real-life connections and positive values.
For more information on how to instil positive values in your child, you may find the following websites useful.
- White Ribbon: This is part of a global social movement working to eliminate gendered violence.
- Orygen: A framework to help boys learn healthy behaviours and develop a positive approach to masculinity.
- R4Respect: An education strategy to prevent domestic and family violence led by young people for young people.
- Flourish Girl: Promoting mental health and emotional intelligence for teenage girls and gender diverse teens in schools.
- Girl Power: Fostering a positive mindset, inner confidence and resilience in girls at a young age, before they embark on their teenage years and are exposed to the powerful world of social media.