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Government reviews social media impact on child mental health

Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, is carrying out a review of the impact that excessive social media can have on the mental health of children.

The aim is to draw up guidance for parents that covers issues like cyberbullying, excessive online gaming and internet addiction, helping them ensure their children do not use social media in a way that is harmful.

Mental health

Confirming the review, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, also warned that the threat of social media on mental health is akin to that of sugar on physical health. An interim report will be published in December, and 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.

Government 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. It says it has made children and young people’s mental health ‘a top priority’ in the NHS, and is half way through a major programme to improve access to specialist NHS services, supported by £1.4 billion of funding.

Evidence review

Dame Sally Davies added: “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.”

Next year the Department of Health and Social Care will work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on an online awareness campaign to raise awareness of all existing information and tools for parents on limiting their children’s screen time.

Author: Simon Weedy

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