Evidence is growing of the harmful impact on young people of technology companies chasing clicks. The government needs to catch up
Children’s use of social media and the internet is a problem. That doesn’t mean it should be stopped. The internet is at least as interesting and fun for children as it is for adults, and social media is a fact of life. While younger children should not be on platforms where 13 is the minimum age, it is neither practical nor desirable to imagine a world in which teenagers are prevented from accessing the platforms and messaging systems that the adults around them use to organise their lives.
But the pleasure and stimulation that people of all ages find on their screens and smartphones must not blind us to the harm that spending time in this way can cause. The finding that the alarmingly high rate of depression in British teenage girls is closely correlated to time spent on social media is extremely concerning. Research drawn from interviews with almost 11,000 14-year-olds found that two in five girls are on social media for at least three hours a day – with half as many boys engaged to the same extent. More than a third of depressed girls have experienced online harassment. About half of affected girls suffered disrupted sleep, compared with 20% of depressed boys.
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