Children’s Charities Join Up with Cheltenham MP on Social Media Inquiry

Influential children’s charities, The Children’s Society and YoungMinds have joined up with Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, to help prepare for his Parliamentary inquiry into the effect of social media on children’s mental health.

The inquiry will explore what more social media companies can do to protect young people when using their sites. The inquiry will be supported by the two charities and will consist of a survey and 3 evidence sessions in front of a panel of Parliamentarians and industry experts. Sessions are scheduled to run from late April into early May (2017).

The Cheltenham MP laid the groundwork for his inquiry after leading a Parliamentary debate on the subject in November 2016. He met with the two charities recently to formalise preparations for the hearings.

Alex Chalk said:

“I’m extremely grateful to The Children’s Society and YoungMinds for agreeing to work with me on this critical area.  I don’t think we fully understand the adverse effect that social media can have on young people’s mental health.  I hope our inquiry can go some way towards filling that gap in knowledge.”

Sam Royston, Policy Director at The Children’s Society, said:

“Young people tell us that negative experiences online can have a real impact on their self-esteem. The Children’s Society’s own research has shown the damaging consequences that bullying can have on young people’s wellbeing, and increasingly this doesn’t end when children are picked up from the school gates, but can continue anytime and anywhere, via social media.

“While the internet can be a positive force in children’s lives, we urgently need a better understanding of how what they see and experience in the online world – from unrealistic images to cyber bullying – affects their mental health, and what we can do to protect them. This inquiry presents an important opportunity to explore what social media companies can do to make sure that their channels provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all. We are excited to be partnering with YoungMinds to support Alex Chalk with this timely inquiry.”

Sarah Brennan OBE, Chief Executive of YoungMinds said:

“We are delighted to be working with the Children’s Society to support Alex Chalk MP in his inquiry into the effects of social media on children’s mental health. Young people are spending more and more time online, and although social media usage can provide several emotional and social benefits for young people, it also creates its own unique set of pressures. Social media companies clearly have an important role to play in supporting young people to be able to navigate online interactions in a positive and safe way.”

Alex Chalk added:

“Social media can create instant heroes. But it does have a darker side.  Cyber bullying and the risk of grooming are well documented, but there are many other ‘side effects’ which can be equally as destructive 

“12% percent of children who spend no time on social networking websites have symptoms of mental ill-health. But the figure rises to 27% percent for children glued to sites for three hours or more a day.

“Then there’s the ‘compare and despair’ syndrome. Young people (particularly girls) are vulnerable to negative body image.  In a world of selfies, young people are exposing themselves to constant scrutiny and criticism.

“20% of our children are waking up at night to check phones, texts and messaging. Many more go online when they should be asleep. Sleep deprivation means they are more likely to gain weight and perform poorly at schoolIt puts them at greater risk of depression and mental ill-health.”