MPs call for tougher measures to protect children online

By March 20, 2019 Press Releases

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing has published a report exploring the positive and negative health impacts of social media.

On 18 April 2018, the APPG launched its Inquiry ‘Managing the Impact of Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing’. This report titled ‘#NewFilters to manage the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing’, provides a summary of the evidence presented to the Inquiry and all conclusions and accompanying policy recommendations.

The key findings of the report include:

  • Social media can have a range of positive effects: providing a platform for self-expression, enhancing social connections, and supporting learning.
  • Young people using social media to find support for mental health conditions are at high-risk of unintentional exposure to graphic content and that discourse could unhelpfully “glamorise” mental illness and prevent young people from accessing professional help.
  • While 12% of children who spend no time on social networking websites have symptoms of mental ill health, the figure rises to 27% for those who are on the sites for three or more hours a day.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of young people reported social media was a good source of health information.
  • Pressure to conform to beauty standards perpetuated and praised online can encourage harmful behaviours to achieve “results”, including disordered eating and body shame.
  • 46% of girls compared to 38% of all young people reporting that social media had a negative impact on their self-esteem.

In response to these findings, the APPG has put forward a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • Establish a duty of care on all social media companies with registered UK users aged 24 and under in the form of a statutory code of conduct, with Ofcom to act as regulator.
  • Create a Social Media Health Alliance, funded by a 0.5% levy on the profits of social companies, to review the growing evidence base on the impact of social media on health and wellbeing and establish clearer guidance for the public.
  • That the Government publishes evidence based guidance for those aged 24 and younger to avoid excessive social media use, that is use of “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”.
  • Urgently commission robust, longitudinal research, into understanding the extent to which the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing is one of cause or correlation and into whether the “addictive” nature of social media is sufficient for official disease classification.

For more information, the full report can be accessed here.


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