Social media could be fuelling anxiety and depression in young people, experts have said.
Claims that the heavy use of social media is harming young people’s mental health, has sparked an official inquiry by MPs.
It aims to build on the work of a report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which found while there are some positives, social media had mostly a negative impact, including prompting worries, unhappiness and a ‘fear of missing out’.
The inquiry by an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) will look at the latest evidence and determine what should be done by the government and the social media industry itself to prevent harm.
Polling conducted by RSPH in April 2018 on behalf of the new APPG found that more than half of the UK public (52%) say not enough is being done by social media companies to address the impact of social media on mental health and wellbeing, with two in five (41%) also saying the Government is not doing enough.
Four in five (80%) say tighter regulation of social media companies is needed, with almost half (45%) saying this should be done through a self-regulated Code of Conduct, and more than one third (36%) saying it should be legally enforced by Government.
Launching the inquiry, Chris Elmore MP, Chair of the APPG, said: “I’d highly encourage everyone who has an experience of social media and the impact it can have upon young people’s mental health to submit evidence to the APPG’s inquiry.
“It’s essential that we hear from all stakeholders involved in this issue including social media companies, charities, NGOs, government departments, technology developers, parents and, above all, young people themselves.
“It’s vital that we are able to look at the whole picture surrounding this growing issue so that the APPG and RSPH are able to gain a clearer picture of what aspects of social media usage need addressing most urgently. Please do submit your experiences to feed into this vital work.”
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, added: “Social media isn’t going anywhere and nor should it, so we must work to ensure we harness its potential for young people in the most beneficial way possible.
“Research has raised increasingly serious concerns about the detrimental effects of social media use on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, so we must strive to make meaningful changes that mitigate these negatives, and maximise the positives.
“This inquiry provides an important opportunity for both expert stakeholders and young people themselves to shape the APPG’s recommendations and support the development of practical solutions.
“We hope that both Government and the social media industry itself will engage constructively with the inquiry, in order to help empower young people to take control of their relationship with social media in a way that protects and promotes their health and wellbeing.”
The inquiry will be open to receive written and recorded evidence until August 13, with a number of oral evidence sessions to be held in Parliament in the autumn.
Organisations and individuals interested in submitting evidence to the inquiry should download the Call for Evidence from the APPG website at www.rsph.org.uk/socialmediaappg.