[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