Child health care specialists have called for anyone under the age of 18 be banned from using social media without training.
The call from StemProtect.co.uk (the UK’s stem cell bank) comes at a time when cyber bullying and mental health issues among teens and young children are at an all-time high. An estimated one in three teenage girls is reported as suffering from depression or anxiety, which is a rise of 10% on figures just 10 years ago.
The firm has drawn the line between an increase in social media use among teens, and the rising number of mental health problems they face.
When it comes to body image issues, apps like Instagram can make the problems much worse, giving teenage girls unrealistic expectations of what their own bodies should look like as they compare them with the so-called ‘candid’ and ‘real’ images professional Instagram personalities and models share on their own Instagram feeds.
And with the increased number of ways teens can be reached online, bullying has taken a new and worrying form over the past decade, with cyberbullying meaning that even when children aren’t at school or around other people, they can still be targeted – often anonymously – online.
The solution might seem like a radical one, but it could be the only solution. The company has called for a total ban on anyone under 18 using social media without first having training to help them cope with its downsides. On the one hand, this still gives them access to the sites they need to be able to work in digital fields, while also taking care to make them aware of what they can do to stay safe and happy.
Spokesperson for StemProtect, Mark Hall, said: “We’re not calling for all under 18s to be banned from social media at all, that would be unrealistic and unhelpful. Instead what we’re suggesting is a mandatory procedure for under-18s to go through before they can access it, otherwise they would need to wait until they were 18 to use things like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.”
The company’s PR claims the move is one of the most ‘practical’ solutions that’s been suggested to deal with the problems social media can cause to teens’ mental health. Perhaps ‘radical’ would be a more fitting description. How such a policy could be implemented is an even bigger challenge – unless undertaken on a worldwide scale and with the involvement of ALL social media the plan would almost certainly fail.
The announcement at first seemed like a public relations exercise – after all, why would a stem cell bank see reason to push such a plan? Perhaps it’s to do with news in the UK that calls to help lines for children contemplating suicide are increasing dramatically with the increased use of social media and the subsequent increase in cyberbullying that proposals like this are coming out.
Educating children about responsible use of the internet and social media in general should be introduced in schools and hopefully, apps and social media sites will start to provide guidance on what content is acceptable and what posts will not come back to haunt children later in life.