Sunday, June 17

Is social media damaging children’s mental health?

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At a time when self-harm among youngsters is on the rise, educational leaders are demanding the law to step in and protect children from the negative effects of social media. Self-harm, bullying, hate speech and sexual content were among the negative materials which kids are most likely to be exposed to according to a new report.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has found that “two-fifths of school leaders said they had received reports of young people being bullied on social media on a daily or weekly basis […]”. The report was based upon a study of nearly 500 secondary schools in January. Reports of pupils suffering from low self-esteem as a result of seeing the ideal standards of what people are supposed to look like on social media were commonplace. One school leader said:

“We have seen a big increase in cases of self-harm related to the use of social media. When in the past the first weeks after a break used to be quiet, they are now much worse as pupils seek to settle arguments that have been enhanced over the holidays.”

Indeed, many other reports have been produced with the purpose of exploring the link between social media and mental health. Even Facebook executives have warned social media users of the risk to users’ well-being. Other reports suggest that “an association between social media use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues, and increased suicide risk” exist. Naturally, reports such as these do not purport to ignore the benefits of social media but simply highlight the importance of the negative. But how easily can the law step in to fix the problem? The Independent reports:

“The Government has said it wants the UK to be “the safest place in the world to be online”, and it will introduce a new code of practice setting out the minimum expectations on social media companies.”

It remains to be seen what reforms the report motivates the Government to implement in order to diminish the negative impact of social media on the mental health of children across the UK.

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About Author

Matt is a law student at Durham University. As a result of his background as an international student, he has an interest in international affairs as well as politics and film.

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