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Heads: Social media damages mental health

95% of head-teachers report that social media is having negative impact on pupils’ mental health

Published on 9th March 2018

Almost all head-teachers feel that social media is damaging the mental health of pupils, a survey has found.

Heads: Social media damages mental health

95% of head-teachers report that social media is having negative impact on pupils’ mental health

Almost all head-teachers feel that social media is damaging the mental health of pupils, a survey has found.

The Association of School and College Leaders surveyed 460 secondary school head-teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in January and 95% felt that social media is having a detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

General Secretary Geoff Barton said: “Social media can be a force for good, helping young people to connect with each other in a positive manner. But it also has a dark side which can be seen only too clearly from our survey.

“It is a technology which has grown at great speed, outstripping our ability as a society to understand and mitigate against these negative impacts. More must be done to protect young people so that they can enjoy social media safely and responsibly.

“We recognise that the government is trying to find solutions but we are not convinced that the current proposals go far enough. We will be seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the findings of our survey and to explore the options for more stringent safeguards and more public information for parents,” he added.

The survey, which asked heads from state and independent sectors about the impact of social media on pupils over the last 12 months, found:

    • Almost all respondents had received reports of pupils being bullied on social media, with 40% saying that incidents were reported on a daily or weekly basis.

    • Almost all had received reports of pupils encountering upsetting material on social media – such as sexual content, self-harm, bullying, or hate speech – with 27% saying incidents were reported on a daily or weekly basis.

 

  • 89% had received reports of pupils being approached by strangers on social media sites.

  • 93% had received reports of pupils experiencing low self-esteem as a result of seeing idealised images and experiences on social media.

  • 96% had received reports of pupils missing out on sleep as a result of social media use.

Nine out of 10 head-teachers said that new laws and regulation should be introduced to ensure social media sites keep children safe, and 77% said the government and social media companies should produce more information for parents.

The government launched a strategy in October to make Britain “the safest place in the world to be online” with proposals for a voluntary code of practice for social media providers, but the NSPCC wants the code to be mandatory and backed up by an independent regulator.

Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, said: “Through Childline we hear from thousands of young people who are at crisis point with their mental and emotional health. Their problems can often be intensified by the inescapable intrusion of social media, and the impression that their friends are living more exciting and fun lives than they are.

“Everyone has a role to play when it comes to protecting children from the risks of being bullied, harassed or groomed online. That means parents talking to their children about their online lives; schools equipping young people with the skills and awareness they need to keep safe; and government making sure social networking sites are doing more to put child safety at the heart of their policies,” he concluded.

 

 

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