Screen time and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing

Senior medical officers’ release recommendations and advice for parents and carers regarding screen time and children and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing | Department of Health and Social Care

In 2018, the UK Chief Medical Officers commissioned independent researchers to map published research on screen time, social media, and children and young people’s mental health.  This research was published in January 2019 in the report Screen-based activities and children and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing: a systematic map of reviews , and today The Department of Health and Social Care have published the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) commentary on this research.

In the document, the CMOs said, in the UK most children and young people had grown up with internet-enabled technology in their home or school. Many had early access to smartphones and similar devices that can be used outside the home or school.

The internet and social media could be a force for good in society, said the CMOs, as they helped to promote social contact and children could access advice, education, support and information, while apps were increasingly being used to help young people manage health conditions and access online learning.

However, at the same time, parents and carers, children and educational professionals, health professionals, academics and politicians had expressed concern that the amount of time children spent engaged in screen-based activities could be detrimental to their physical and mental health.


What does the guidance recommend parents do?

There are several recommendations for parents, which the chief medical officers say will help keep children safe and healthy.

These include:

  • not using phones and mobile devices at the dinner table – talking as a family is very important for development
  • keeping screens out of the bedroom at bedtime
  • talking as a family about keeping safe online and about cyber-bulling and what children should do if they are worried
  • not using phones when crossing a road or doing any other activity that requires a person’s full attention
  • making sure children take a break from screens every two hours by getting up and being active
  • policing their own use too – parents should give their children proper attention and quality family time and never assume they are happy for pictures to be shared

Full document: UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) commentary on ‘Screen-based activities and children and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing: a systematic map of reviews’

Original review: Screen-based activities and children and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing: a systematic map of reviews



Social media impacts on young people’s wellbeing need to be better understood, says Centre for Mental Health

Centre for Mental Health | September 2018 | Social media impacts on young people’s wellbeing need to be better understood, says Centre for Mental Health

The Centre for Mental Health have produced a new briefing paper, Social media, young people and mental health, the paper looks at evidence about the impact of social media use on the mental health of young people. It finds that while many studies have focused on the risks and potential harm caused by social media use, there is also evidence of potential benefits. And only by building a three-dimensional picture of the many ways young people interact with social media will we be able to reduce the risks and make the most of the opportunities they present (Source:  The Centre for Mental Health).


Download Social media, young people and mental health here 

Related: Rhys Edwards [Author of briefing] Anxiety, loneliness and Fear of Missing Out: The impact of social media on young people’s mental health

Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

Royal Society for Public Health | May 2018| #StatusOfMind  Social media and Young people’s mental health and wellbeing

This report from Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) explores the positive and negative impact of social media on young people aged between 16-24, and their mental health and wellbeing. It also includes a league table of five social media platforms which have been ranked in order of their net impact on young people’s health and wellbeing by young people.

mental health young people
Image source:

The RSPH calls for

  1. The introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media
  2. Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated
  3. NHS England to apply the Information Standard Principles to health information published via social media
  4. Safe social media use to be taught during PSHE education in school
  5.  Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts and other data, and discreetly signpost to support
  6. Youth-workers and other professionals who engage with young people to have a digital (including social) media component in their training
  7. More research to be carried out into the effects of social media on young people’s mental health

The report can be downloaded here 

Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research | BMC Public Health | Story via ScienceDaily


Researchers at the University of Essex and UCL found an association between increased time spent on social media in early adolescence (age 10) and reduced wellbeing in later adolescence (age 10-15) — but only among girls.

The study used data from the youth panel of the UK Household Panel Study — a large national survey which interviews all members of a household annually, from 2009 — 2015. A total of 9,859 UK adolescents aged 10 to 15 years completed questions on how many hours they spent interacting on social media sites on a typical school day.

The authors found that adolescent girls used social media more than boys and social media interaction increased with age for both boys and girls. At age 13, about a half of girls were interacting on social media for more than 1 hour per day, compared to just one third of boys. By age 15, both genders increased their social media use but girls continued to use social media more than boys, with 59% of girls and 46% of boys interacting on social media for one or more hours per day.

Wellbeing appeared to decline throughout adolescence in both boys and girls, as reflected in scores for happiness and other aspects of wellbeing, although findings indicated that girls experienced more negative aspects of wellbeing.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Cara L. Booker, Yvonne J. Kelly, Amanda Sacker | Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK | BMC Public Health | 2018

The benefits of social media for young people in care

Until recently, it has been assumed that platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp only pose a risk for young people in care. However, research now suggests that this vulnerable group can benefit from the psychological, emotional and social support gained via online networks. | University of East Anglia | story via ScienceDaily


Researchers from the University of East Anglia have been looking at how young people living in state care can benefit from social media use. More than 100 visits to four residential care settings in England were made over a seven month period. During this time, in-depth observations on how 10 young people routinely used social media in their everyday lives were made. Focus groups and interviews with the young people and their social care professionals were also conducted.

The study found:

  • Having positive online networks helped young people in care gain ‘social capital’
  • Platforms like Facebook can contribute to increased self-esteem and mental well-being, which is particularly helpful for young people in care who frequently report feeling worthless, depressed and isolated
  • Social media gave young people the chance to network with organisations that could help them with opportunities for personal progression

Author, Dr S. Hammond said “This valuable piece of work makes clear the benefits of social media for looked after children and we welcome this contribution to the understanding of the impact of online. However, social networking carries risks as well as benefits and there is a responsibility on social media sites to make their platforms safe for their young users, including looked after children who can often be particularly vulnerable, so that they are free to enjoy the online world.”

Full reference:  Hammond, S. P. et al. |  Social Media, Social Capital and Adolescents Living in State Care: A Multi-Perspective and Multi-Method Qualitative Study. | The British Journal of Social Work | published online 02 February 2018

Full story at ScienceDaily

Nearly half of young people have experienced cyber bullying

Nearly half of young people aged 11-25 years have experienced threatening, intimidating or nasty messages via social media, email or texts, according to a survey by Young Minds


Young Minds and The Children’s Society, have carried out a survey of 1,000 children and young people aged 11-25 to hear about their views and experiences of bullying online.

More than a third of young people (37%) said they had experienced online bullying in their lifetime versus 47% of those who had reported offline bullying experiences.

An overwhelming majority of young people surveyed (83%) said that social media companies should do more to tackle cyberbullying on social media.

More than half (59%) of young people had their first social media account at the age of 12, despite guidelines for social media sites stating that you must be 13 years old to have an account.

Nearly half (45%) said they spent more than three hours per day on social media.

The Young Minds inquiry aims to look at what social media companies are doing to tackle such behaviour on their platforms, and whether the industry is going far enough to protect children and young people on their sites.

More detail: An Inquiry into the Impact of Cyberbullying on Social Media on Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Social media abuse affects almost half of girls in UK

Nearly half (48%) of girls aged 11-18 in the UK and two-fifths of boys have experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media | OnMedica

Image source: Plan

The findings, based on a survey commissioned by girls’ rights charity Plan International UK, have prompted fears that young people, and girls in particular, are being forced to withdraw from social media due to fear of criticism, harassment or abuse. The charity today launches the #girlsbelonghere campaign to tackle the problem.

The survey revealed boys are significantly less likely than girls to experience abuse, with 40% reporting a negative experience. They are also less likely (59%) to take evasive actions to avoid being criticised such as refraining from posting on social media or holding back their opinions.

For the survey, research agency Opinium contacted 1,002 young people aged 11-18. Some 235 of the 486 girls and 202 of the 510 boys who responded reported online abuse.