SC teens accused of death over Instagram access. Can social media influence actions?

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Four South Carolina teens are charged with murder after they allegedly plotted the shooting death of a Rock Hill man.

Police say the teens reportedly concocted the plan because they were upset at being disciplined related to Instagram use, The Rock Hill Herald reported.

The victim, Larry Ingram Jr., 38, took away computers used by the teenagers because of a dispute over the way they were using Instagram before he was killed on Nov. 14, The Herald reported.

Though the exact cause of the murder has not been determined, experts say excessive social media use in teens can lead to violent behavior.

How Instagram can influence behavior

Some research revealed that Instagram is indirectly associated with violent behavior in teens and young adults.

A survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health found that, of the five most popular social media platforms teens use, Instagram has the most detrimental effect on young people’s mental health.

In the survey, Instagram was linked to high levels of anxiety, depression and bullying. Other studies showed untreated mental health issues in teens can lead to a heightened risk of violent behavior.

Depression and anxiety in young people can cause “increased impulsivity, hostility and poor self-regulation,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“The odds of violence in individuals with a diagnosis of depression were increased two-fold, compared to those without depression,” the study states. “These findings highlight the need for active and early treatment of depression in adolescents and young people.”

Removing Instagram, phone access could create ‘emotional backlash’

Removing a teen’s access to social media can result in “major emotional backlash” and a “breakdown of the parent-child relationship,” Dr. Beth Peters, a clinical psychologist who specializes in teens and families, told New York-based Child Mind Institute.

When phones and computers are taken away, kids tend to withdraw from their parents and look for other ways to access the internet, Peters said.

To prevent the negative effects, experts recommend that parents set limits on their children’s social media usage and make time for face-to-face conversations, Child Mind Institute recommends.

Social media benefits

Though social media can negatively affect teens’ mental health, there are some benefits to using Instagram.

Social media can provide a platform for shy teens to meet people with similar interests, according to Claude Mellins, a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University.

Platforms like Instagram also allowed teens to connect with their peers when social interaction wasn’t possible during the pandemic, according to Mellins.

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