Dubai, UAE: Experts in child psychology will visit Dubai this month to share their findings with teachers on how social media may be damaging pupils’ mental health.
The visit and seminar at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Tecom followed a Glasgow University School of Psychology study of 400 students.
Results suggested that teenagers who engage with social media at night could damage their sleep patterns and put their mental well-being at risk.
The findings will be discussed by Dr Madeleine Portwood, the British Psychological Society’s spokeswoman on child development, and Dr Jim Boylan, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry.
The survey also revealed that a major cause of stress is anxiety surrounding life decisions, when many teenagers suffer from decision paralysis.
The three leading stress sources for girls were exams (57 per cent), decisions about their future (37 per cent) and arguments with friends (36 per cent).
“In two thirds of cases, the stress led to symptoms of related illnesses, including insomnia, eating disorders and depression,” Dr Portwood said.
The study also showed that teenagers were reluctant to talk to their parents about the issues they face.
Elena-Maria Andrioti, a psychology practitioner at the Carbone Clinic of Dubai, said there is a similar pattern in the UAE.
“These findings are similar to what I have seen, but Dubai teenagers are more worried about how their friends perceive them,” she said.
“It is a difficult issue to deal with in therapy, for teenagers to accept how they look and not stress about it. There are a lot of weight issues, particularly with girls.”
Ms Andrioti said that most schools have guidance counsellors, but not all pupils feel confident to ask for help.
“Many do not know they can go to a counsellor,” she said. “When I attend the schools there is often a line of pupils wanting to talk to me. There are no support hotlines here. That needs to improve.
“Children have phones with them all the time, so online bullying can be hard to escape.
“I have seen children as young as 8 or 9 with these problems, it is largely due to social media.”
The November 28 seminar from the Ebdaah Education Series is a learning resource for education, mental health and medical professionals.
© The NationalNov 2015