RCPCH responds to impact of social media on young people inquiry

The APPG on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing call for more research and tighter social media regulation. RCPCH responds saying social media has benefits as well as threats and the full impact of some are still unknown, "that’s why inquiries that explore this unchartered territory are so important."

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing has published its Inquiry, “#NewFilters to manage the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing”. This is the first national Inquiry specifically examining the impact of social media on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

The report explores the positive and negative health impacts of social media, as well as putting forward recommendations to protect young social media users from potential health harms.

The APPG 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 media companies, to fund research, educational initiatives and establish clearer guidance for the public
  • review whether the “addictive” nature of social media is sufficient for official disease classification.
  • 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.  

Responding to the ‘#NewFilters to manage the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing’ Inquiry, Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

"Social media has changed the social landscape and our children and young people are the test pilots. Social media has it benefits – it supports learning and builds relationships – but it does also present threats and the full impact of some are still unknown. That’s why inquiries that explore this unchartered territory are so important.
 
Latest evidence suggests that screen time in itself is not harmful to child health, but it’s when this displaces other important activities such as sleep, physical activity and face-to-face interaction, that it can lead to harm. However as social media develops, so too must the research base, so the APPG’s recommendation to fund research is one we welcome. We also support their call for a clear regulatory framework that sets out the responsibilities and duty of care of social media companies towards their users. But it is important that the system is monitored carefully and has meaningful input from the users - children and young people - in its development to ensure that the safety advice reaches its target audience."