An Inquiry into the Impact of Cyberbullying on Social Media on Children and Young People's Mental Health

An Inquiry into the Impact of Cyberbullying on Social Media on Children and Young People's Mental Health

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

To inform the inquiry, YoungMinds and The Children’s Society, have carried out a survey of children and young people aged 11-25 to hear about their views and experiences of bullying online.

The survey, taken between March and August 2017, was completed by 1, 089 young people aged 11-25:

  • 62% of respondents were under the age of 18;
  • Three-quarters of respondents were female (75%);
  • Almost half of respondents (48%) said that they had experienced a mental health problem in the past.

What the survey revealed

  • The most commonly used social media sites recorded in the survey responses were: YouTube (85%), Facebook (82%), Instagram (80%), Snapchat (75%) and WhatsApp (60%).
  • 59% 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, 45% of the young people surveyed stated that they spend more than three hours per day on social media.

Experiences of cyberbullying

  • In total, 37% of young people reported having personal experience of online bullying in their lifetime, in contrast to 47% who reported experience of off-line bullying.
  • 26% of young people reported personal experience of online bullying within the last year.
  • In total, 42% 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's the inquiry about

As well as assessing its impact, the inquiry will 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. 

A panel of MPs, Peers and other experts will lead this inquiry. The inquiry will be made up of an online survey and 3 evidence sessions in the Houses of Parliament. During the evidence sessions, the panel will hear from: 

  • children and young people who have been personally affected by online bullying
  • industry experts on the impact of cyberbullying on mental health;
  • representatives from social media companies.

Issues that will be looked at in more detail include:  

  • The effect of online bullying and harassment (including through instant-messaging) on children and young people’s mental health.
  • Measures currently taken by social media to tackle online bullying.
  • What more can be done to make social media a safer space for children and young people's mental health.
I’m extremely grateful to The Children’s Society and YoungMinds for agreeing to work with me on this critical area. I don’t think we fully understand the adverse effect that social media can have on young people’s mental health. I hope our inquiry can go some way towards filling that gap in knowledge.
Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham
Whilst we know that social media can have a positive impact on young people's confidence and relationships, it also creates its own unique set of pressures. This inquiry presents an important opportunity to examine whether social media companies can do more to ensure that young people are able to navigate online interactions in a positive and safe way.
Sarah Brennan OBE, Chief Executive of YoungMinds

Find out more

Matt Blow, Policy and Government Affairs Officer, YoungMinds 0203 861 2107 matt.blow@youngminds.org.uk 

Matt Hussey, Public Affairs Officer, The Children’s Society 020 7841 4485 matthew.hussey@childrenssociety.org.uk    

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