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Effects of social media on mental health to be explored

Chief medical officer will review excessive social media use on children's mental health

Published on 3rd October 2018

A review of the impact of excessive social media use on children's mental health is to be reviewed by the chief medical officer, it has been announced.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has warned of the potential dangers of social media on children’s mental health, saying the threat of social media on mental health is similar to that of sugar on physical health.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said: "Overwhelmingly technology is a force for good, but we are seeing more and more evidence that children using social media sites for hours on end each day is having a detrimental impact on their mental health.

"I want to empower parents to keep their children safe in the digital age which is why I’ve asked the Chief Medical Officer to draw up helpful guidance to allow them to make an informed choice," he added.

Evidence shows that children who spend more than three hours using social networking websites on a school day are twice as likely to report high or very high scores for mental ill-health.

CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies will draw up guidance to help parents ensure children do not use social media in a way that harms their mental health.

The guidance will include what age a child should be allowed to sign up to a social media account, and how often they should have access. It will also include guidance on cyberbullying, online gaming where there is a social media aspect, sleep problems and problematic internet use, also known as ‘internet addiction’.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "Mental health is just as important as physical health and should be treated as such.

"I recognise there is concern amongst parents about the impact of social media on their children’s mental health so I am conducting a thorough evidence review and will draw up advice to help empower parents and provide clarity," she added.

While the Health and Social Care Secretary welcomes the progress some social media companies have made, there is much more to do. Next year, the Department of Health and Social Care will work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to launch an online awareness campaign to raise awareness of all existing information and tools for parents on limiting their children’s screen time.

Matt Hancock is also continuing to engage with his ministerial colleagues at DCMS and the Home Office around their upcoming Online Harms white paper.

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