RSPH, who provide secretariat to the APPG on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing, welcomes the recommendations made by the Science and Technology Committee in their highly anticipated report on the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health.

Whilst the report highlights some of the potential benefits, it also notes a number of harms which social media can have on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, echoing many of those previously outlined in the #StatusofMind report published by RSPH in 2017, including damaging sleep patterns, causing poor body image and cyberbullying. 

RSPH commends the Committee’s recommendations, including for:

  • Social media companies to be made subject to a formal legal duty of care to their users;
  • The Government to commission research to identify who is at risk of experiencing harm online and on social media, and why, and the longer-term consequences of that exposure on children;
  • Social media companies to make anonymised high-level data available to researchers to enable better understanding of social media’s effects on users; and,
  • PSHE education to be made mandatory by the Government for primary and secondary school pupils to deliver an age-appropriate understanding of, and resilience towards, the harms and benefits of the digital world.

Duncan Stephenson, Director of External Affairs for RSPH, who gave evidence to the Select Committee said: “Social media has revolutionised how we interact and communicate – and while it is a fairly recent phenomenon, this report highlights that our knowledge of the term long term effects is still very patchy. However, we also know that there is an emerging evidence base, along with concerns from young people, parents and even the industry itself, which means that we can’t stand idly and not do anything.  

We fully support the Select Committee calls to help researchers and others to better understand the long term effects, including for technology companies to provide information to researchers to better understand the long term effects to our wellbeing.  Despite the all-pervading nature of social media, it still operates very much in a wild west fashion, and therefore we fully support calls for a statutory code of practice underpinned by a regulatory regime, to ensure there are clear standards and safeguards developed.”

Chris Elmore MP and Chair of the APPG on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing said: "For far too long now social media platforms haven't lived up to their moral responsibility to their users, which has allowed many people's relationship with the technology to get out of control. 

This important report will work hand-in-hand with our forthcoming report on this issue, which looks at the impact of social media usage on young people's mental health in particular. We need to get a better grip on this issue as a society and I'm glad that we're hearing an increasing number of calls from many different sources calling on the government to take meaningful action."

RSPH and the APPG on Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing will soon be publishing a report on their recent inquiry into Managing the Impact of Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. The report aims to build the evidence base on the issue and also inform progressive and practical solutions, including proposed guidance for industry and users in enhancing the positive, whilst mitigating the negative impacts which social media can have on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.