Could Instagram damage mental health?

Lauren Burton has an Instagram following of 38,000 people, built up over the course of five years and countless hashtags.

While the number can be something to boast about, some corners of the social media platform cause concern.

The Glasgow security worker, also known as @FlickeringEmber, has seen children as young as nine commenting on her pictures through shared hashtags and interests. A survey released on Friday found the photo-sharing app has the worst impact on young people’s mental health.

“I’m seeing younger and younger people on Instagram”, she told STV News. “On some of the hashtags in comments I look to see who it is and if I should say something back, they’re about nine years old. When I was that age I was still riding my bike outside.

“I know it’s different times and everything but it’s depressing and the fact that I know when people are being bullied in school they can’t even escape it at home because it then goes into social media.”

She added: “You see kids these days walking around wearing make-up and the pressure to wear it at stupid ages and it’s all because of Instagram and taking photos of themselves to try to look good. Look magazine recently did a campaign with #GetReal. Basically some people take double figures of the pictures before they find the right one to post. So you’ll see someone’s picture and they’ll look great but they’ve probably posed about 30 times and added God knows how many filters and effects to it and it’s not real life.”

The Royal Society for Public Health’s survey of 1500 people aged 14 to 24 found Instagram had a negative impact on people’s body image, sleep and fear of missing out.

Instagram came in as the most harmful social platform for mental health, with Facebook and Snapchat closely behind. At the other end of the spectrum were YouTube and Twitter.