Safety Net Report: Impact of Cyberbullying on Children's Mental Health

Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, set up an Inquiry into the impact of cyberbullying on children and young people’s mental health, in partnership with YoungMinds and The Children’s Society.

About the inquiry

The Cyberbullying Inquiry, carried out by YoungMinds and The Children’s Society, was taken between March and August 2017. It included:

  • 1,089 responses from children and young people aged 11-25
  • 62% of these respondents were under the age of 18
  • Three-quarters of responders were female (75%)
  • Almost half of respondents (45%) said that they had experienced a mental health problem in the past.
  • This high rate of self-reported mental ill health amongst respondents may be due to the dissemination of the survey by charities who work closely with young people with experiences of emotional and mental health problems.

The inquiry also included evidence sessions with:

  • Industry experts on the impact of cyberbullying on mental health
  • Representatives from global social media companies including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube

What the inquiry revealed

  • 61% of young people stated that they had their first accounts at age 12 or under, despite guidelines for social media sites stating that you must be 13 years old to have an account.
  • In total, 44% of the young people surveyed stated that they spend more than three hours per day on social media.
  • 62% of respondents said that social media had a positive impact on their friendships.
  • However, 38% of young people reported that social media had a negative impact on how they feel about themselves, more than those who reported it having a positive impact (23%).

Read the findings of the inquiry, and the recommendations to social media companies and the Government, in our report.

Experiences of cyberbullying

  • In total, 39% of young people reported having personal experience of online bullying in their lifetime, in contrast to 49% who reported experience of off-line bullying.
  • 27% of young people reported personal experience of online bullying within the last year.
  • In total, 60% of young people reported having seen somebody be harassed or bullied online.
  • An overwhelming majority of young people surveyed (83%) said that social media companies should do more to tackle cyberbullying on social media, whilst only 6% of young people disagreed with this.

What should be done

Our report has identified a number of issues that need to be addressed to ensure that social media companies play their part – together with Government, schools, families and industry – in creating a digital environment that limits the prevalence of cyberbullying and its negative impacts on children and young people.

We have made a number of recommendations to social media companies, and to the Government to ensure that the online world is a safe and enjoyable place for children and young people.

Summary of recommendations

  1. The Government requires social media companies to ensure that their platforms are age-appropriate, and that children and young people understand how their data will be used;
  2. Social media companies enable children and young people to understand their rights and responsibilities including their behaviour towards others.
  3. Social media companies provide timely, effective and consistent responses to online bullying
  4. The Government improves accountability by requiring social media companies to publish data about their response to reports of online bullying
  5. Social media companies prioritise the promotion of children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing across their platforms
  6. The Government commissions additional research into the scale of online bullying, and its impact on children and young people
  7. The Government puts children’s experiences at the heart of internet safety policy development
  8. The Government educates children and young people to be safe and responsible online, and to know how to respond positively to online harms such as cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can devastate young lives, but to date the response from social media companies has been tokenistic and inadequate. It has failed to grip the true scale of the problem. For too long they have been marking their own homework and it’s time they become far more transparent, robust and accountable.
Alex Chalk MP, who led the enquiry
With so much of young people’s everyday lives involving the online world, it’s crucial that it is a place that young people can feel safe and enjoy being part of. We need to see platforms creating age-appropriate content for younger users, as well as parents and teachers speaking to young people early about how to respond positively to the online world, and what to do if they come across upsetting content. But most of all, this inquiry has shown loud and clear that it’s time social media companies sit up and take action to tackle cyberbullying and promote good mental health on their platforms.
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds

Find out more

Matt Blow, Policy and Government Affairs Officer, YoungMinds 0203 861 2107 [email protected] 

Matt Hussey, Public Affairs Officer, The Children’s Society 020 7841 4485 [email protected]    

Back To Top