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, says the Royal Society for Public Health.
I spoke to TWR-UK about this earlier, asking me to respond to the story as published in the Guardian: Social media addiction should be seen as a disease, MPs say:
These were some of the thoughts I scribbled down before the call:
- Is social media unhealthy – like any tool it can be used for positive/negative – e.g. books, I can plan to read one chapter, but I’m up til 3-4am because the storyline has ‘hooked me in’ – is that addiction or a bad habit? Games are designed to keep you going ‘one more level’, and social media is using this to ‘hook’ us in, so it is looking to ‘addictive practices’ and are various books throwing this line.
- Social media ‘addiction’ and poor mental health online make for good headlines – Jean Twenge’s study last year had a lot of traction, but Dr. Andrew Przybylski at Oxford Internet Institute said if you drill down = 0.36% causation (not even 1%), and that potatoes have a more damaging effect – also that it’s girls with 5 hours plus online – need to question why want to spend so much time online. Last year have been called in on multiple stories about screentime, so are we fearing fear, or is there a real problem there? See: https://medium.com/behavior-design/social-media-has-the-exact-same-negative-effect-on-depression-as-eating-potatoes-2fcd2c1c4310
- Good that social media companies are being asked to fund research into this (0.5% is being suggested, but that should translate into a large chunk of money), but should ensure that this is independently/academically rigorous and that there is freedom in the kind of questions to ask – doesn’t assume a positive or a negative output. Look at the algorithms and the psychological tricks they are using, and where the $ come from (advertising, which requires spending more time online).
- Must look at wider picture – is social media an escape from ‘rest of life’ or is it part of ‘real life’ and actually can be life affirming (e.g. my cancer experience on sharing info, my body positivity choices on Instagram), it’s where friends are, outside life is not seen as ‘safe’ for young people, there’s a lot of pressure to ‘achieve’.
- Important to consider what addiction actually is – can’t put phone down, twitchy, can’t sleep, etc. Sonia Livingstone 25k children across Europe – proud to say that ‘addicted’ (and hear people use this phrase all the time), but medically addicted – under 10%. Still worth addressing, but not the everyday problem some are suggesting.
- Worth looking at own habits (but also people’s expectations – FOMO, expectations of quick replies, etc.) – if you think it’s unhealthy then e.g. try not looking at phone before 9am, look at the screentime apps on your phone, look at the content of what you’re doing online rather than the time, journal your experience, have conversations with others (online or offline), but also more widely educational options – e.g. Natasha Devon re mental health/body image.
Some related stories:
- Internet, go the f*ck to sleep! ‘…venture capitalists asking how many active users a platform has is contributing greatly to bad design of products?—?one where addiction is seen as a positive metric of success.’ This piece highlights four groups that could take responsibility for this: Government (not appreciated); Private companies; Venture Capitalists and Individuals.
- Social Media has the “Exact Same Negative Effect on Depression” as Eating Potatoes (from 2018) – looks at studies that challenge Twenge, etc.
- 3 Signs Your Social Media Behavior Is Unhealthy, And How To Fix It – looks at individual options
- MPs call for tax on social media companies about a 0.5% tax of social media companies to fund research (though if they’re good at tax avoidance now…) .. I’m talking to Premier Radio about that around 1.30pm, so just off to read a little more…
Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.