Children's Mental Health: Social Media

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 2018.

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Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle 12:00 am, 24th July 2018

What steps his Department is taking to help protect children’s mental health from the harmful effects of social media.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Our chief medical officer is leading a systematic review of international research to improve our understanding of social media use and children’s mental health. We are also working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to consider what more can be done to reduce potential harm to children’s mental health from social media. This is being done through the Government’s upcoming internet harms White Paper, which is due later this year.

Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle

The longer people spend online, the more likely they are to experience cyber-bullying. Research by Childline, a service of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, shows that the number of young people seeking counselling as a result of online bullying has increased by 88% in just five years. What are the Government doing to improve research on this issue and to better understand the potential harms?

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

My hon. Friend is right to highlight this, but it is worth bearing in mind that there are also positive effects from engagement on social media. The relationship between social media use and its impact on mental health is not conclusive. That is why the chief medical officer is carrying out a review of all the evidence in this area, so that we can understand and shape future policy. That report will be due next year.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Wavertree

The Government acknowledge that we are seeing an increase in the number of children suffering with their mental health. We have only to look at the figures on the number of children turning up at accident and emergency in a crisis to know that that is the case. This is a serious state of affairs. Why then are the Government releasing their response to the consultation on the Green Paper on young people’s mental health later this week, when we are in recess, and thus avoiding scrutiny in this House?

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Respectfully, I say to the hon. Lady that this is a response to the consultation on the Green Paper, which has had considerable debate in this House. The suggestion that we have avoided scrutiny really does not pass.

Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Thank you for calling me, Mr Speaker; news of my death has been greatly exaggerated, Sir.

I thank the Minister for her previous reply. She will be aware that there is considerable concern about certain images on social media, particularly those relating to self-harming, and the effect they have on young people’s mental health. Will she set out the Government’s response in dealing with this issue?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

I know the hon. Gentleman, who has returned to the Chamber in rude health, is in fact deeply grateful to me for my generosity in accommodating him, notwithstanding his rather eccentric disappearance, and the fact that he did not mention it was a mere oversight.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I can confirm that the Government will be publishing their online harm White Paper by the end of this year to address the very subject my hon. Friend mentions.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have asked the previous Secretary of State whether he would agree to engage in my all-party group inquiry on social media and the impact on young people’s mental health. May I ask this Minister to go a step further and engage in our oral evidence sessions, which are starting when the House returns in September, about how we can find solutions to the problems that the impact of social media causes to young people’s mental health?

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I would be more than happy to engage with the hon. Gentleman and the all-party group on this issue, because it is important we do as much as we can to learn and to get as much evidence as possible in this area.