Close to four in five — 78% — of a total of 4,000 students who were polled for a survey said they spend a lot of time a day on social media and that it should be used as a tool to spread awareness and dispel myths about mental health issues.As per the survey conducted by Fortis hospitals, around 82% of students studying psychology in classes XI and XII in at least 200 schools across Delhi, Mumbai, Mohali, Ludhiana, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Varanasi, Dehradun and Chennai have said social media has influenced their opinions and attitudes. Dr Samir Parikh, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis hospitals, said, “The general reaction is that social media is addictive for young people and that they should not use it. However, such knee-jerk reaction is not right as use of any media can have both positive and negative influences. It all depends on how children interact with the medium. For the purpose, parents need to create media literacy so that children can use the medium to their benefit.”“Social media is a very powerful medium and reaches out a large audience. This can be both — good and bad. So, instead of telling children to just get off social media, which they might not even do, they need to be aware about the message they send out and analyse the information they receive,” said Dr Rajesh Sagar, head of the department of psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).The Fortis survey found that 94% of the students believed that social media is a means to create awareness, but only 44% followed accounts talking of social causes.“Social media has an immense scope for spreading good information, but people end up not following such accounts mainly because they don’t know who is doing what and they are not asked what they are doing online. Children need to be taught that media is not a one-sided communication; they must be taught to ask whether the information they are getting is correct, whether it is just partially true, whether it is just appealing to their emotions. Not just that, parents also need to be aware about the medium and have conversations,” said Dr Parikh.Around 96% of the students surveyed said information on social media should be carefully evaluated, while 90% said adults need to be aware and must discuss what children are consuming on social media.“This willingness (of children) to engage in a positive dialogue needs to be utilised by adults to enter into conversations with students,” the survey reveals.On mental health issues, 46% said mainstream media is not doing enough to create awareness and 32% believed that it has, in fact, increased stigma.“There is truth to it; mental illnesses are usually portrayed for comedy, to depict the motive of a crime and violence, or to show strange obsessive love. This gap can be addressed by social media, where they can actually interact with people with a range of issues, provided that parents teach the children to critically think and question what they see,” said Dr Parikh.