The Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health. The Commitee welcomes the perspectives and experiences, and details of any initiatives taken, by children, schools and youth organisations.
Use of social media
The Education Policy Institute reports that 95% of UK 15 year olds use social media before or after school, and half of 9–16 year olds used smart-phones on a daily basis. The Children’s Commissioner has found that children aged 8–12 find it hard to manage the impact of social media.
Impact on children’s mental and physical health
There have been several reports on the impact of social media and the use of screens on children’s mental and physical health. The Royal Society for Public Health’s 2017 report ‘#StatusofMind’ called for action to promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives.
The Youth Select Committee’s 2017 report 'A Body Confident Future' examined negative and positive impacts of social media on body image. One recent US study reported that the presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity. One study found that more than one in 10 children developed high blood pressure from excessive screen time. On the other hand, another study found no link between children’s use of various screens and any harm to their health.
Actions to take
The ‘Life in likes’ report from the Children’s Commissioner has called for action to “broaden digital literacy education beyond safety messages”; for parents to be informed about how to “support children to use social media in a positive way”; to “improve teachers’ knowledge about the impacts of social media on children’s wellbeing”; and social media companies to “do more to address underage use”.
Terms of Reference
The Committee would particularly welcome the perspectives and experiences, and details of any initiatives taken, by children, schools and youth organisations. The Committee would welcome written submissions addressing the issues, including:
- What evidence there is on the effects of social media and screen-use on young people’s physical and mental well-being — for better and for worse — and any gaps in the evidence;
- The areas that should be the focus of any further research needed, and why;
- The well-being benefits from social media usage, including for example any apps that provide mental-health benefits to users;
- The physical/mental harms from social media use and screen-use, including: safety online risks, the extent of any addictive behaviour, and aspects of social media/apps which magnify such addictive behaviour;
- Any measures being used, or needed, to mitigate any potential harmful effects of excessive screen-use — what solutions are being used?;
- The extent of awareness of any risks, and how awareness could be increased for particular groups — children, schools, social media companies, Government, etc;
- What monitoring is needed, and by whom;
- What measures, controls or regulation are needed;
- Where responsibility and accountability should lie for such measures;
Deadline for submissions
Written evidence should be submitted through the inquiry page by Friday 6 April. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform the first oral evidence hearing. Please send written submissions using the form on the inquiry page.
The Committee values diversity and seek to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear.