• Four in five (80%) of the UK public believe tighter regulation is needed to address the impact of social media on the health and wellbeing of young people.
  • Almost two thirds (63%) of young people reported social media to be a good source of health information.
  • However, children who spend more than three hours a day using social media are twice as likely to display symptoms of mental ill health.
  • Pressure to conform to beauty standards perpetuated and praised online can encourage harmful behaviours to achieve “results”, including body shame and disordered eating, with 46% of girls compared to 38% of all young people reporting social media has a negative impacted on their self-esteem.   

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing has published its report on the Group’s 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, which ran from April 2018 to January 2019. 

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 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 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.   

Chris Elmore MP, Chair of the APPG on Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing said: "I truly think our report is the wakeup call needed to ensure - finally - that meaningful action is taken to lessen the negative impact social media is having on young people's mental health. 

For far too long social media companies have been allowed to operate in an online Wild West. And it is in this lawless landscape that our children currently work and play online. This cannot continue. As the report makes clear, now is the time for the government to take action. 

The recommendations from our Inquiry are both sensible and reasonable; they would make a huge difference to the current mental health crisis among our young people. 

I hope to work constructively with the UK Government in the coming weeks and months to ensure we see real changes to tackle the issues highlighted in the report at the earliest opportunity."

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, who provide the APPG secretariat, added: “This Inquiry clearly highlights the serious and very real concerns of a variety of experts and young people.  The overarching finding is the need for social media companies to have in place a duty of care to protect vulnerable users and the need for regulation which would provide much needed health and safety protection for what is a lawless digital playground. 

It is vital that in line with the calls from the UK CMO’s, further research is prioritised to improve our understanding of the health harms, as well as benefits, from social media on our generation of digital natives, and that this research should be supported by industry itself.  

We hope that our findings are recognised and included in the forthcoming White Paper from DCMS so that we can empower our young people to manage their relationship with social media in a way that protects and promotes their mental health and wellbeing.”