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Kiwi App Uses Pet Images To Counter Impact Of Negative Social Media Content

A Kiwi designed app is set to use new technology to encourage users to counter negative social media by posting uplifting content of their canine companions.

The app uses a unique algorithm to track and measure social media for trending, negative sentiments in posts and prompts users to create and share positive content in response.

Experts believe there is a correlation between the rise of social media in recent years and a simultaneous increase in mental health problems; with warnings issued by psychologists about how younger people are engaging with social media and the related impairment to their personal and social development[1].

A recent study showed that those aged 14-24 believe social media was causing damage to their mental health with Instagram said to be making the biggest negative impact on their self-esteem[2].

While our mental health can be adversely affected by social media, dogs are said to be able to offset some of this melancholy by offering us decreased stress levels, reduced depression, and decreased loneliness - when compared with those who have never owned a dog[3].

Psychologist Sara Chatwin says social media can be a traumatic place with many Kiwis seeking out help for bullying, body image issues feeling lonely and isolated.

“Repeated exposure to negative content on social media may have a cumulative and deleterious impact on users.

“Social media followers often forget that the images on social media do not depict “real life” and therefore they are comparing their reality to an “unreality”.

“This is dangerous, unhealthy and has resulted in more Millennials reporting depressive symptoms, anxiety and discontent with their lives.

“It is concerning to see Generation Z in particular at risk of buying into the world of social media so much, that they forget to grow and nurture other parts of their lives.

“This age group are becoming needy with respect to “likes” and social judgement so much so that when they don’t get the positivity from these kinds of media they become desperate - It’s no coincidence the suicide rate amongst this age group has increased,” she says.

Cormac van den Hoofdakker spokesperson for Pedigree who commissioned the app, says he hopes the new ‘Good Index’ algorithm it uses will help to offset some of the negative impact social media has on our lives created by social media platforms.

He says a recent study conducted on their behalf found 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely[4].

“Nearly nine in 10 (89%) people in the survey who got a pet for loneliness felt their pet helped them feel less lonely. A further quarter of pet owners interviewed stated they got a pet to improve their mental health, with more respondents aged over 55 years old doing even more likely to do so (55%),

“We wanted to find a way to encourage Kiwis to share images of their dogs in a way that would provide some balance to some of the darker side of social media that many of us and, particularly teenagers are exposed to each day,” he says.

The Pedigree DentaStix Studios app is available for download on iOS and Android devices.

Video can be found here & high res images can be found here

[1] Betul Keles, Niall McCrae & Annmarie Grealish (2020) A systematic review: the influence of social media on depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adolescents, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25:1, 79-93, Accessible here.

[2] Royal Society for Public Health Status of Mind Study. Accessible here.

[3] Powell L, Chia D, McGreevy P, Podberscek AL, Edwards KM, Neilly B, et al. (2018) Expectations for dog ownership: Perceived physical, mental and psychosocial health consequences among prospective adopters. Accessible here.

[4] Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)/MARS study. Accessible here.

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