[DIGITAL] Submitting to the Commons Select Committee on Social Media and Screen Use in Young People’s Health

On the 21st February, the (Science and Technology) Commons Select Committee requested evidence for the ‘impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health’:

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.

The terms of reference related to:

  • 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

I wasn’t sure if I’d have the energy/capacity to submit to this, but with the deadline this coming Friday, I decided that I would submit some information to this, as I get asked about this a lot in the media, and obviously the reason for first writing Raising Children in a Digital Age was that I wanted to help ‘responsible adults’ help the children they are responsible for (in whatever capacity) give them the best possible experience online.

Having read the Guidance on Submission, I decided that I had something important to say, although I have not done one of these before, nor any idea if I’ve done it entirely in the right format – I’ve definitely written it more in a journalistic style than an academic one, although there’s a few references dotted about. We’ll see. Having identified that ‘I have particular interests in understanding digital culture and the digital environment, identifying positive uses, and in digital literacy’, the 13 paragraphs I submitted were on the following topics:

  1. Screentime is not necessarily bad, and should be measured on its own terms.
  2. Understand the online environment, and how children are actually using it.
  3. Are screens so very different from other tools, e.g. books
  4. Understand technological determinism versus social shaping of technology.
  5. Are people really addicted to the internet?
  6. Would a fixed screen time work?
  7. A brief note on age verification.
  8. The social benefits of online communities
  9. Using technology for health benefits, including mindfulness
  10. We need to listen to the children.
  11. Care with the language used required, and who should be involved.
  12. The digital as part of wider culture.
  13. Challenging assumptions: digital is not separate from ‘real life’.

makes you think, do you know what, I’ve got something to say, deadline is Friday, will give it a go!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

History Reviewer

McLaine, I. Ministry of Morale: Home Front Morale and the Ministry of Information in World War Two London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979

A key work for this project which fully considers the administrative history of the Ministry of Information, the lead government department for propaganda. He argues that for two years, the measures taken by government propagandists were:

  • Unnecessary and inept
  • Based on misunderstanding and distrust of the British public
  • Products of the class and background of the propagandists themselves.
  • He feels that after two years:
  • The Germans were still characterised as irretrievably wicked.
  • Efforts were made to separate Communism from the ‘Russian’ (not Soviet) war effort.
  • Propaganda was intermittently prompted by doubts about people’s martial stamina and devotion to Parliamentary democracy.

McLaine felt that the achievements of the Ministry of Information were that:

  • The MOI realised importance of full and honest news as a factor
  • They recognised that in the fight against totalitarianism, it was important not to disregard one of its main weapons, although within a democratic context.
  • With benefit of Home Intelligence, the MOI came to regard the British people as sensible and tough, and so entitled to be taken into the government’s confidence

See if you can get hold of a copy on Amazon.}


Leslie William Spears: An Enquiry into the use of propaganda on the Home Front during World War Two with special reference to the role and effectiveness of the poster as a means of conveying Government policy

Original typescript, 1998.

Dissertation (M.A.) – University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art, Division of History of Art and Design, 1998.

No abstract.

I attended some sessions at Winchester School of Art, with Brandon Taylor, re: Art & Propaganda, and Leslie was inspired to write this MA. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never had a chance to read it, maybe now I’m back in the area, I might find time!

Academic Digital

Higher Ambitions: The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy

33 The continuing development of
e-learning is a vital element in
supporting improvement of
teaching and the student experience
and in enabling the personalisation
and flexibility that students and
employers expect. We will empower
our universities to be world
leaders in the growing market in
transnational education based on
34 Whilst the performance of our
institutions in transnational
education and online distance
learning is already impressive,
we need to build on this to ensure
that we remain a global leader.
Our aspiration is to ensure that UK
courses are the first choice for
international students who want to
study but who do not want or are
unable to travel. We will therefore
build on the international reputation
of the overall “British Brand” of
higher education, and on distance
learning at institution level, to
ensure our strategic investment in
digital higher education supports
this existing area of strength.
35 HEFCE have established an
impressive taskforce to help take
forward the aim of helping UK
higher education remain a world
leader in online learning and grow
its market share by 2015. The Task
Force is chaired by Lynne Brindley,
Chief Executive of the British
Library, with representatives at
senior level from the private and
public sector, including Microsoft,
Apple, the British Council, HEFCE,
Joint Information Systems
Committee (JISC), and Universities
UK. The BBC has agreed to advise
the task force as and when
appropriate. The taskforce met for
the first time in September 2009.96
It will identify opportunities for
investment and innovation within
HIGHER AMBITIONS | Engaging with our communities and the wider world
96 The members of the taskforce are: Dame Lynne Brindley (Chair), Chief Executive, British Library; Professor Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, Open University; Steve Beswick,
UK Director of Education, Microsoft; Professor Philip Garrahan, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University; Professor Sharon Huttly, Professor and Dean of Studies,
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive, HEFCE; Mike Munn, Director for Higher Education for UK and Ireland, Apple; Don
Olcott, Chief Executive, The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education; Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, Principal, Edinburgh University and Chair of JISC; Professor Gilly
Salmon, University of Leicester; Professor Rick Trainor, Principal, Kings College London; Kevin Van-Cauter, Higher Education Adviser, British Council; Martin Williams,
Director, Higher Education, BIS; Professor Caroline Gipps, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton; Richard Halkett, Director of Strategy and Research, Cisco;
Subroto Mozumdar, President of Higher and Professional Education, Pearson Education Ltd; Aaron Porter, Vice President (Higher Education), National Union of Students;
John Widdowson, Principal, New college Durham and Chair of Mixed Economy Group. Advisor: Judith Nichol, Knowledge Partnerships Manager, BBC
and between universities and
colleges, and with the private
sector, in the development of online
learning, including the building of
critical mass. Through HEFCE the
Government will be prepared to
provide seedcorn funding on a
competitive basis for universityprivate
sector partnerships which
will strengthen our market position.
36 We believe that, in a rapidly
expanding global market, institutions
based here have a unique
opportunity to provide education
in many different forms. The UK’s
advantages in research and teaching
are supported by our established
strengths in both accreditation and
educational publishing. The potential
to develop international education
through partnerships with
broadcasters and internet service
providers is considerable, and in our
view will shape and strengthen the
higher education sector over the
coming decade.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills Logo

Extract from the report published 4th November 2009


33 The continuing development of e-learning is a vital element in supporting improvement of teaching and the student experience and in enabling the personalisation and flexibility that students and employers expect. We will empower our universities to be world  leaders in the growing market in transnational education based on e-learning.

34 Whilst the performance of our institutions in transnational education and online distance learning is already impressive, we need to build on this to ensure that we remain a global leader. Our aspiration is to ensure that UK courses are the first choice for international students who want to study but who do not want or are unable to travel. We will therefore build on the international reputation of the overall “British Brand” of higher education, and on distance learning at institution level, to ensure our strategic investment in digital higher education supports this existing area of strength.

35 HEFCE have established an impressive taskforce to help take forward the aim of helping UK higher education remain a world leader in online learning and grow its market share by 2015. The Task Force is chaired by Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, with representatives at senior level from the private and public sector, including Microsoft, Apple, the British Council, HEFCE, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), and Universities UK. The BBC has agreed to advise the task force as and when appropriate. The taskforce met for the first time in September 2009.96

It will identify opportunities for investment and innovation within and between universities and colleges, and with the private sector, in the development of online learning, including the building of critical mass. Through HEFCE the Government will be prepared to provide seedcorn funding on a competitive basis for university/private sector partnerships which will strengthen our market position.

36 We believe that, in a rapidly expanding global market, institutions based here have a unique opportunity to provide education in many different forms. The UK’s  advantages in research and teaching are supported by ou established strengths in both accreditation and educational publishing. The potential to develop international education through partnerships with broadcasters and internet service providers is considerable, and in our view will shape and strengthen the higher education sector over the coming decade.

Read the full report (115 pages), or Executive Summary (20 pages) published by the Department for Business, Information and Skills (PDF), and also an interesting blog in response.