Dr Radha Modgil’s Take on Social Media? “A Space to Campaign … [and] Bring About Positive Change”
“Social media allows young people to create, to connect, and to feel understood and valued.”
Dr Radha Modgil is an NHS GP, a television, radio, and podcast broadcaster, and author. Radha is the medical expert for numerous BBC shows and was the presenter of the CBeebies show, Feeling Better, which highlighted the importance of talking to young children about their feelings. She is a member of the Youth Expert Network, a joint initiative by Meta and ThinkYoung to bring together key European youth experts to help young people shape their digital future.
How does joining Meta's Youth Experts Network build on your past work?
I have been an advocate and voice for young people since I started my media career 15 years ago, and before that as a medical doctor as well. This was an active choice that I made as I have always and still believe that when we empower young people and support them with the life skills they need. Social media is part and parcel and integral to young people’s and all of our lives. It is our responsibility to support and empower young people with the skills they need to thrive on social media and to be able to express themselves and benefit from being creative, and ensure systems are in place on all platforms they could use that ensure they are safe, empowered and protected. Being part of Meta’s Youth Expert Network is another opportunity that I am honoured and grateful for that will allow me to advocate for young people.
Why do you focus on the well-being of young people in your work?
Our wellbeing is everything – it impacts how we see the world, how we interact with others, and what we feel able to be involved in and say yes to. Our psychology and our belief systems, our ability to be self-aware and notice how we feel, what we are thinking and to make an active choice in how to respond to the ups and downs of life determines so much. For me, our mental and emotional wellbeing in a truly holistic sense of the words is the foundation stone and the first building block of everything. Without this we have nothing, we cannot do anything and we definitely cannot thrive and flourish. The earlier we start teaching life skills and emotional skills to young children and people, the better. Life will always bring us challenges and we must get to know ourselves, how we tick, and, importantly, how to look after ourselves and trust ourselves to do this. This is true wellbeing – integrating life events and day to day life challenges with our wellbeing. Wellbeing is not just the basics of self care for our mental and physical health, but also our ability to find our purpose in life, to thrive and to be able to use what we have to support others and bring positive and impactful change to the world.
How can social media positively impact youth wellbeing?
Social media is like anything in life – it has its benefits and its downsides. There are of course many things we need to discuss and change and improve about social media – platforms, etiquette, safety, and how we use it. But, in these discussions, we mustn’t overlook or ignore the multitude of benefits that it had to offer. Social media allows young people to be able to create. Creativity is a wellbeing strategy – it is good for our mental and emotional health, it allows problem solving, a chance to connect with others, to improve and advance our skill sets, and to use our imagination which opens us up to being more in the present moment and understanding ourselves more as well. Social media also allows us to connect to others and not feel so alone or isolated. It allows us to feel understood, heard, seen, and valued for who we truly are. It can also provide a space to campaign for things young people care about and bring about positive change. It can allow young people to feel they have agency and autonomy and an ability to make a difference in the world. Social media can also allow us to understand young people in other countries and cultures – what they might be facing and how they might be feeling – a sense that we are more similar and have more in common than different.
What role do you see for governments and policymakers in ensuring young people’s well-being on social media?
For anything to improve there needs to be a clear and authentic intention as a starting point. This intention needs to be meaningful and be beyond any one person’s ambition or any one organisation’s lifetime, but sustainable and to have longevity and legacy. There also needs to be a joined up, collaborative approach with many agencies working together towards common and shared goals in order to be effective. Social media is multifaceted and an approach to supporting young people’s wellbeing needs to reflect that. Above all, any approach must reflect and include the voices and opinions of young people themselves, and must be led by them – we need to understand how they feel, what challenges they face, and what they need. It must have energy, long termism, and momentum behind it to ensure it works effectively, and be able to adapt to changing needs within the dynamic social media landscape.
October is Mental Health Awareness Month, what are your top tips for parents to support teens’ mental health?
One of my top tips is to be a parent or carer who that young person feels they can turn to and tell anything to, no matter what – with no judgement, no fear, and no worry. The key to supporting a young person and their mental health is to make them feel safe enough to open up and talk. This is everything when things seem challenging and difficult. Try to listen actively rather than interrupt, and allow them to debrief about how they feel. It is helpful to offer them support in seeking professional input if needed. Ask them what they feel might help, let them have the autonomy to tell you what strategies or responses you can give that will help them when they are having a bad moment or a bad day. Allow them to go at their own pace and encourage them to see their friends and take part in hobbies or activities they enjoy. Above all, let them know that you are there for them. That is potentially life-saving - the same way basic life support for physical health is absolutely essential, so is a young person knowing they are loved and safe and can talk to someone about how they feel for mental health.
ThinkYoung is a not-for-profit organisation, aiming to make the world a better place for young people by involving them in decision-making processes and providing decision-makers with high-quality research on youth conditions. ThinkYoung conducts studies and surveys, makes advocacy campaigns, writes policy proposals, and develops education programmes: up to date, ThinkYoung projects have reached over 800,000 young people.
Meta is a tech company with apps that you may know, like Instagram or WhatsApp. We work hard to build online spaces where young people can learn, connect, create, and have fun. We want young people to enjoy our platforms and to be safe, so creating spaces for young people to have their say on the future of platforms like ours is crucial.